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Senescall Brothers: William and John

William and John Senescall

John: We are William Isaac and John Rippin Senescall. We were born at the top of Read's Lane on Woolsthorpe Road, next to the old Sir Isaac Newton pub kept by Mr and Mrs Reed. There were six of us but one boy died very young. There were two older sisters, then Bill and then John and George who were twins born in 1930. George has passed on now.

Grandfather William Senescall lived at a farmhouse behind Red Cottages at Stoke Rochford. Dad, (George) and his elder brother, Edward (Ted) walked to school at Great Ponton. Grandfather lived in two houses in Woolsthorpe, the last one being the old stone house opposite the pond. He had the coal yard on the corner of Bright's Lane and the Pinfold. Coal and other materials were brought up the Woolsthorpe Road siding by LNER (London and North-Eastern Railway). The siding is now a nature reserve. The coal was delivered to villages all around.

The house had a grass field behind up to the top road and Read's Lane. There was a stable where the horse was kept and sheds where the coal was stored. He also kept sheep and poultry. This land is now built on. George, (Dad), served in the Royal Lincolns in the First World War and came home after being wounded. He married Ada Rippin who had kept house for her father, Isaac Rippin.

Mum was the youngest of 13 children, having 12 sisters and a brother a little older than herself. They lived in a house on the Woolsthorpe Road near the pub. Isaac worked for Morleys of Skillington driving steam threshing machines round the farms. Dad also worked for Morleys who had several machine sets. In summer he went round farms shearing sheep, by hand shears in those days. Our parents were very good and made great sacrifices for the family.

Bill: "We had a great childhood and we were brought up in the Methodist faith, three times to chapel on a Sunday, Morning Sunday School, a service in the afternoon and with our parents to the Evening Service. Now, in 2007, the Morning Service and the Sunday School are taken simultaneously. People went to chapel as families in those days so that there would be the members of a family occupying the whole of one pew together. Our family always went although often we would be running to get there on time, but we managed it somehow. It was accepted that we went to Chapel every Sunday and we quite liked it although John would rather have been playing football sometimes!

The Sunday School had several teachers and helpers, and teaching books and aids were provided to help them prepare the lessons, which generally consisted of the teaching of the New Testament although we did have exams on the Old Testament. We remember that Mr Arthur Branston taught the old scriptures which proved quite helpful to us. John did get a prize but he can't put his hands on it today! We also got puzzles and things like that as prizes. Sometimes there were stars or stamps for good attendance. There would be an assembly to start with and then we would be split up into smaller classes according to age. There would be about 30 to 35 children in the Sunday School. Arthur Branston was the Superintendant and one of the leading lights that kept the Chapel going. The Minister responsible for Colsterworth had other churches in the Grantham circuit and would move to another circuit in the county after about 3 to 10 years. Each year there was the Anniversary Service in which the children would take part. The worst bit was having to do a recitation! (John). We had some enjoyable Sunday School outings going in two buses to such places as Skegness, Mablethorpe or Hunstanton using Gem Coaches or the Lincolnshire Bus Company and later Smiths' Coaches.

Sunday Schools in the Grantham circuit now go to Sutton-on-Sea in a double-decker!" In spite of the war years, childhood was a very happy time. John remembers Mrs Senescall, Irene's mother, fetching water from the spring by the pond, carrying the buckets by means of a yoke. She was getting on and had bad legs but she used to walk up the rise to her house carrying these pails of water and she would do it at least twice a day. Grandfather Senescall and other farmers used fitted water carts pulled by horses to take water to the stock in the fields.

The pond was quite a feature of village life. The children used to play in it and catch tadpoles with nets. Nobody worried about them falling in, not like it is today. Regulations in New Zealand are very much like here. Swimming pools have to be fenced in case a neighbour's child comes into the garden and falls in the pool. Most children fell in the Woolsthorpe pond, including John - (probably pushed in!) There was no danger, the water was very shallow. The place where the drinking water was drawn was protected by wooden doors. More fun could be had when running by the Witham on the way home from school.

Sweet rations used to be bought at Mrs Simm's shop but they were usually consumed before Read's Lane was reached. Mrs Simms sold flour and sugar and the other things that the usual grocery shop sold but she wasn't very busy. There was another shop that sold cigarettes and sweets mainly to supply the men going to work on the Ironstone. It was a dark and dismal sort of place, very 'oldy-worldy'. Since John went out to live in New Zealand he has been back three times. The most prominent change he has seen here in Woolsthorpe is the absence of the Ironstone workings. "We both went to Colsterworth School until we were eleven under Mr Harrison and Mrs Harrison and then in turn we went on to the Central School in Grantham. We both agree that Mr Harrison was a good teacher and very fair.

These were the days when we each took a potato to school, carved our initials on with a penknife and put them under the stove. They were done nicely for playtime. There was a pond down near Rudd's place and we used to have a great time sliding on it in winter. Occasionally a big crack was heard and everyone got off quick! We used to play down by the sheep dip and swimming further down by the culvert. We used to swim at the glebe later and you could see the old railway line at the bottom." Bill went to the Central School first under Mr Thorpe as headmaster, and found most of the teachers to be very good.

He enjoyed school but did not have any particular aim in life. "Boys didn't have aims in those days". When Bill left school he worked for an accountant which was over the Midland Bank in Westgate, Grantham. Then he was called up in 1945 and went into the Royal Navy but he didn't get to see the world! He was a mechanic in the Royal Navy Air Service stationed at air bases. Whilst he was in the Forces he was given the option of joining the New Zealand Navy, as trained men were much in demand. After Bill came home he settled down with Gill. When they were first married they lived at Easton, and then in Grantham and in about 1968, they came to live in their present house in Woolsthorpe. The house, which was previously two cottages side by side, was pretty dilapidated but they had some work done and Bill did a lot himself helped by his sons, as well as attending to the garden.

When John attended the Central School he thinks that the school was at a disadvantage because, as it was wartime, a lot of the teachers, (the very good ones perhaps), had gone into the Forces and the school had to make do with whatever teachers they could get. Some of these teachers were possibly not as good as they might have been. John was ready to leave at fourteen years of age and he went to work on an apprenticeship at the Grantham Motor Company where he was set to attending to the batteries and the greasing of the cars and looking after the parts. "You didn't really get much proper training. Still that was part of the job; you had to start at the bottom." Then John broke his apprenticeship to go into the Army at eighteen.

This was just after the War in 1948 and he served in the Canal Zone in Egypt. John liked to play football and tennis too sometimes but mainly football. He used to dream of being another Tommy Lawton. He played inside left. "Do they still have outside lefts now? We actually had a great village team in Colsterworth and I played in the Mines' team as well for a while." When he left Grantham Motors, he went to work on the Ironstone on the navvies out at Cottesmore and round about, working with a team doing repairs and all sorts of things to keep the machines in operation. "When I was going to go to New Zealand I had a talk with C. B. Bailey, who was the boss of the Mines. He was all right but you knew he was the boss. He asked me why I didn't go as a mechanic but I said that I wanted to do something different. I also went to see Mr Harrison, the head of Colsterworth School, before I left and he had been to Canada and he asked me why not go to Canada"? It was when John went to work at Perkins Diesel in Peterborough that he met a chap who had been to New Zealand who told him that it was pretty good out there, so the idea came into his head to go and try it for a couple of years and then come back. "I left for New Zealand on the 13th of April 1954 from Glasgow". That was the idea but whilst he was out there he met Ngaire, his wife, and that changed things and he settled down. "By this time we had lost our parents so there was not that great pull to come back.

My mum died when I was 15. I have never regretted the move. It has been a good life and I have four wonderful children". He travelled out on S.S. Captain Cook on a free passage which took about five or six weeks, which might have been a holiday, were it not for all the kids running around, there were a lot of families emigrating. It was a good experience especially travelling through the Panama Canal. Jobs, which were plentiful in New Zealand, were sorted out for the emigrants before they set off. People were needed to work in forestry and farming so he thought That's OK and started work in forestry. "The local New Zealand people didn't want to take on those sorts of jobs because they were as isolated as you can imagine.

We came out from Britain and landed at Wellington in the North Island from where we went by train to a place called Rotorua. Then it was another 30 miles or so up a rough metal road to the Kaingarua Forest near where the thermal hot mud springs are." There were five of them off the ship and they had to fill palliasses with straw for beds and they were given two blankets and knives and forks. We had single men huts and communal dining. "It was a bit like doing time really. But the climate was very good and it was very healthy". He landed at Wellington in May which was just getting on for the New Zealand winter so he had two consecutive winters. "In the North Island the winters are comparatively mild, there was nothing like the frost I remembered back in Woolsthorpe when you could hardly put a peck (pick) in the ground, it would bounce off like concrete!" John also worked on the waterfront at Auckland Wharves where he got a good idea of what makes people tick; he learned to work with all sorts.

One of the things that impressed him when he first went to New Zealand was that no-one smoked in the cinemas, they would come out into the foyer to smoke in the interval or have an ice-cream.

Ngaire's story: John's wife Ngaire is the daughter of James and Hilda Cooper. Her great grandparents, Robert and Naomi Cooper and their three children, (the youngest being Herbert Osmund, her grandfather) sailed from London, England on the S.S. Matilda Wattenburg on the 29th of May 1862 with 352 passengers, heading for new Zealand and arriving there 6 months later. Their destination was Mangawhai, a port about 80 miles north of Auckland. The passengers still had many miles to travel to their allotted land at a settlement called Albertland. Many lived in tents or out in the open at Mangawhai waiting for transport to take them to their new land which still had to be cleared and homes built.

One mother decided that she was going to walk with her three children the 15 miles (approx), her husband having gone on ahead earlier. They set off walking and when the children grew tired, she left two by the side of the track and carried the third a distance, left it and went back for the second, left the two together and went back and carried the last on to the others. This was repeated again and again until she reached her destination. Maori wars broke out from time to time, unsettling some of the Albertlanders. The great-grandparents decided to move on as they had lost a considerable amount of possessions including a treasured grandfather clock. They spent a couple of years in Auckland and then moved on to Thames on the Coromandel Coast as gold had been discovered there.

Ngaire's grandmother was born Elizabeth Driver whose parents, Henry (born Sheffield) Sophia (Nee Renshaw, born Staveley, Derbyshire) had married in 1858 and emigrated to New Zealand with one child in 1863 on board the Green Jacket ship. Elizabeth was born in Auckland in 1864. She married Herbert Osmund Cooper. New Zealand is about the same size as Britain but has four million people in population as against sixty million here. John thinks that the motorways are terrific; the traffic has greatly increased since he was here more than 16 years ago, and the country seems more affluent. There are dual carriageways in New Zealand but not motorways like here. The population of Auckland now is about a million so the other three million are scattered around the rest of the country.

It is a pleasant place to live but they do have some of the problems that are prevalent here such as crime, but on the whole it is not too bad. John says that he would not like to have made any changes to his life. We were products of the times we were brought up in, and Bill agrees. The thing John missed when he first went out to New Zealand was the football, because rugby was (and still is) mainly played there. But a lot of British emigrants played football and cricket was very popular. There are three mountains in the North Island and a couple in the South Island and people go skiing and climbing and that sort of thing. There are big lakes too on which people enjoy all sorts of boating and water sports. "It is really very pleasant. People talk about global warming but it still rains hard at times, although people say that the weather is noticeably dryer than it used to be. They talk about the cows giving off methane, and that the farmers should be taxed on it!" John has four children who, of course, went to school in New Zealand and John considers that they had better opportunities than he had. He says "We were a bit restricted as to what we could do, but in the end teachers can only do so much. It is up to you to do what you can with your education. Anyway, life itself is an education isn't it?" Ngaire and John had a girl, Julie, and three boys, Geoff, James and Malcolm, all grown up now. The boys have only had girls and the daughter has three boys. Gill and Bill had two boys, Jonathan and Timothy, and one girl, Caroline, and the same thing has happened with them. Thus the name of Senescall will finish with this generation, both in New Zealand and in England, where the name of Senescall was recorded in this village as far back as 1665.


This page was last edited on Sunday 05-Apr-09 12:48:38 BST


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