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Kathleen Blankley

Kathleen Blankley

I am Kathleen Elizabeth Blankley and I was born at Dry Doddington, Lincs. My father and his father before him were small farmers in rented property. When I was six we moved to Colsterworth to Pasture Farm down the Bourne Road, the other side of the A1, almost into the Corby Glen area. The Duke of Windsor used to come and stay weekends at nearby Corby Birkholme. We all used to know his car. I had one sister and two brothers. We all went to Colsterworth School and we walked to it every day. It was a long way and I used to sit on the stone heap for a rest. On the way to school we used to deliver milk to three houses which stood near the entrance to Twyford Woods; to Mrs Porter, Mrs Harman and Mrs Heckton who came to live in Colsterworth later. When my elder sister and brothers left school, I used to cycle by myself and read a book at the same time.

Mr Freddie Ball was the headmaster and then Mr Harrison came. I don't know whether I was happy at school. In those days you didn't know any different; you didn't say anything anyway. Miss Ball was the infant teacher and she stopped me writing with my left hand. She left me with a lump on my thumb because she used to give me a sharp tap with a ruler to stop me using my left hand. I am ambi-dextrous except that I can't write with my left hand, I do write with my right. I can do many things better with my left. I stayed on until I was fourteen. I wanted to go to the Girls' High School in Grantham but farming was very poor in those days and you had to pay for your own transport. This was in the early thirties. There was no way I could have transport.

We used to go to Grantham market every Saturday morning and I went to music lessons in Castlegate. My mother would take eggs, butter, cream cheeses and chickens and sell them in the market just as many other farmers' wives did. We went in a trap drawn by horses. My father liked high-stepping horses. There was a difference between trotters and high-steppers. Father would meet his friends and talk farming.

The farm was rented from the Cholmeleys at Easton Hall and my father had two or three men working for him. The land was very poor, very stony. He had a large number of cows and he took on a milk round later.

Then we moved to live in the Farm House on Colsterworth High Street. It used to be the Angel Inn long ago, but most people called it Modd's Farm when we were there. It was rented from the Buckminster Estates. The farmhouse fronted the High Street but it has been modernised and made larger by having had additions built on to it since I lived there. The farm buildings to the right were incorporated into the house behind the War Memorial and the barns at the back are now the Coach House on Back Lane. The fields belonging to the farm stretched eastwards towards the A1 and spread over to the other side of the Bourne Road.

When my father died, they couldn't get my mother out as she qualified as being a sitting tenant. The intention was to build her a bungalow on Back Lane but the Buckminster Estates, which had fallen on hard times, decided to sell the farm and my brother Gordon bought it at auction.

My brother Jim worked the farm with my father, but much later when he was 73 he was killed outside his house, York House on the Bourne Road just up from the Post Office. It was about 20 years ago. He hadn't retired although he had put his name down for accommodation at Newton Court. He was always laughing and full of jokes. It was on a dark November night when he was crossing the road. It was very sad.

I married Cecil Blankley who was a very clever mechanic. He could make a car go on a bit of string. He lived at the Sun Inn and then in the little house at the side. I was almost 21 when I married in 1934 at Colsterworth Church. My husband's grandmother was Mrs Brewin who lived in the School House. (Mr Ball would not live in it because he said it was too small). When Mr Ball retired and Mr Harrison became schoolmaster he required the house so Cecil's grandmother had to move into one of the Bede Houses which she hated. She said it was awful. Cecil's mother always said that the move killed her. Paddy Mahon as we called him - was the Rector at the time and she held him responsible for her mother having to move. 'If Paddy Mahon is taking the service I am not coming', declared Grandmother Brewin. However the Reverend Mahon was ill in bed on the day and the Bishop of Grantham, who then lived at Stoke, married us. So she changed her mind and came. We had six bridesmaids, dressed in sweet pea colours. There was my sister, Jim's wife, two or three cousins and friends, I can't remember exactly. It was a beautiful autumn day, September10th. We went to the church by car, there were lots of cars about by then. We went to Westcliffe-on-Sea for our honeymoon in an MG. On the way I was the map reader, and Cecil got on to me so much I told him to stop the car, I was going back to my mum!

Cecil was a marvellous mechanic but he was born too soon to take advantage of his talents. It was not easy to be educated in those days. He went to Colsterworth school though his parents paid for him to go to the King's School in Grantham but he could not stand it and he left after one term. Whether it was the cycling or the school I don't know. When I married him he had a garage on the High Street, next to where the Co-op now stands. He would not have had to get planning permission to build it in those days. He had a green coach that got on fire and a gypsy told him that green was unlucky so he changed to blue and white. He could not think what to call the business until, talking to Fred Rippin in his shop on the High Street one day, Fred said, 'Look at what you've got in your hand'. It was a packet of Gem cigarettes so that's how Gem Coaches got its name.

We lived at home with my parents for a while because we were building a house near the present school, opposite the surgery. It cost us £450 and it had a living room where you did the cooking, a scullery, a pantry, three bedrooms and a garden. We did not have electricity, we had batteries. We had electricity up the field but not at the house. Millfield House used to tap into the electric supply and paid us a few pennies a year for it. The public utilities came in 1934. Up to then people had to use candles and paraffin lamps, but being in that sort of business we had batteries. We had a fire for warmth but half the time we were starved to death (meaning very cold). Pauline, my elder daughter, was born there.

After we had been there about a year Cecil bought more land up the fields by the A1. He wanted a garage. He had run Gem coaches with his brother from the garage on the High Street but they sold it to the Lincolnshire Road Car Company. We let out our house on Back Lane to Cyril Wright and his wife who used to have the butcher's shop at the top of School Lane and we moved to the house up there on the A1. Eventually we sold our old house to the Police. We sold it for exactly the same price we had paid for it. The Police enlarged it. I have never been in it since. It must have been there about seventy years.

I remember one night during the war, we had been to hear the Reverend Barraclough preach - he was marvellous, a wonderful preacher during the war. I had been with a friend to hear him and we were walking back up the little path back to our house near the garage on the A1 when we heard a terrible snorting sound. We thought it was a bull on the loose in the field and we were so frightened we ran back to Mrs Beech, the policemen's wife, to ask her to ring Cecil up to come and fetch us, but it turned out to be Mrs Bland's horse. We got teased a lot about that. The little footpath is still there. It goes up to the A1 off Turnor Crescent now. That area used to known as 'up the fields' because that's all there was, fields.

We sold petrol for 77d a gallon, sometimes getting up in the middle of the night to serve somebody because they had run out. There was nothing like the traffic there is today of course. Cecil sold cars and did repairs. He was the agent for Morris cars.

I started the cafe there called the Gem Cafe. We had a lot of passing business and when the war broke out there were many people going up to Scotland away from the expected bombing in London. Some of them were crying. Millfield House was taken over by the Army during the war, the North Staffs and the Parachute Brigade. We had all sorts of events like shows and bazaars and housey-housey to raise money for the war effort, such as the Spitfire Fund. Cecil used to play on the pianola, my mother would collect the money and sell the tickets. We used to hire a band for the dances, a three-piece band usually. There were plenty of bands for hire, and they didn't play this noisy stuff you get nowadays. The dancing was proper dancing too. It was lovely.

There was little or no private hire during the war, so Cecil went in for lorries and he also provided coaches for the Americans. They had a base at North Witham and he transported them to their aerodrome which was on the other side of the A1. This turned out to be the start of his business of putting on coach trips and coach holidays. We knew a lot of Americans They used to come to the house sometimes and stay for the weekend. Many of them married English girls.

After the war things changed completely. That's when we decided to get out. Cecil developed the hire service instead. He had a big depot to garage the buses and we had an office, but no more doing repairs or selling petrol.

Mrs Howitt used to come and help. She was wonderful, a very hard working woman. She helped me for a long time. She was lovely. She used to smoke woodbines.

When we built the house, Four Winds, at the A1-Bourne Road crossroads, the sewerage had not come then. When we were at the garage it was awful. We had to dig big holes in which to empty the sewerage from the toilets we provided for the customers. We were always having to dig these big holes and the ground was so stony it was very hard work and then the sewerage would not always drain away.. Nobody realises what a big job it was. It was quite difficult to get sewerage up to Four Winds. I don't know how much we had to pay to get it.

As years went on, Cecil concentrated on the coaches. At first you couldn't get a licence to hire out coaches, well you could but it was difficult. You could do services but even then you had to go to the transport people in Nottingham. Then Margaret Thatcher came to power and I think she brought in new regulations which freed the hiring out of cars and coaches. People who already had licenses were dead against these new regulations and they opposed the applications. So it was still a job to get such a business going but Cecil did it. We used to advertise outings to Skegness and other places of interest and pleasure. We used to take the people from Newton Court on outings and also down to the Darby and Joan Club in the old village hall. I used to drive them to the Social Club when the new hall was built. We did the school runs and also car hire. The Social Club was started by C B Bailey before it belonged to Salvesens. He was very good to the village. His deputy was Mr Timberlake, who lived at the old Queen pub - a house at the bottom of the Woolsthorpe Road. Mr Bailey lived at Millfield after the war. He did a lot for the village. He was a nice chap and would help people if they got into any sort of trouble.

One of his sons, Mick, went flying with my husband. Cecil had a flying licence and they went flying in a little Auster. It was my husband's plane and Mick used to go with him. We used to belong to an aero club at Rearsby. He had a hovercraft after that. We went all over the place to these big houses when there was a show on. In the end he got a road license for it. He drove it up the A1 once, not very far though. He built it himself, not from a kit. He had a mate who lived in Grantham who used to help. I didn't always go because they went off at the weekends and I used to have to stay at home to look after the business. You should ask Noel Simms about the hovercraft. People would crowd round to see it. It had a registration number of 1.

My car had a special number and one of our drivers was killed in it on a very snowy day. I used to do the run, but he said, 'It is a very bad day, I'll do it today'. A car came up the back of him and smashed into him and killed him. It was terrible, I had to go and tell his wife. People thought it was me because he was in my car. He was such a nice man and a very gifted mechanic.

After Cecil died I carried on the business for three years but it was very difficult because I had to keep thirty-five people employed and keep the business coming in. I couldn't sell the business because anybody could set up that sort of business but I sold the coaches. I had some lovely coaches. I still own the premises but Four Winds was sold. Cecil always said that he would retire when the college finished at Stoke, we used to bus the students to their school practice. But he would not have enjoyed retirement, he was the sort of chap who needed to be busy. Four Winds was a bit frightening at night when I was in it by myself. Nothing ever happened but I wanted to leave. Gordon got planning permission for three buildings here, but he built two bungalows which meant I have a big garden. I love gardening, I can lose myself in my garden for hours. By now I can hardly walk let alone kneel and it is all too much for me. I have my brother next door. His garden is immaculate but he only has lawns and trees. I keep paying people but you can't get true gardeners any more. They don't know how to prune or what a fork is for.

I had two daughters, Pauline Elizabeth and Cicely Anne (who was born at Four Winds). I have nine great-grandchildren and seven grandchildren. Unfortunately they live far away so I can't see them too often but they are always ringing me up to see that I'm all right.

Looking back I would say that, knowing how things are today, I would want something different. But it is no use looking back really. You could be lucky or very unlucky. You can have everything but still be unlucky can't you? I was always brought up to work. When we were children we had to turn the churn to make the butter and help with the chickens, so I have always worked and I couldn't be idle. I find it difficult to have to sit about nowadays.


This page was last edited on Sunday 09-Aug-09 23:06:36 BST


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