Colin Dickinson - The Ironstone
I am Colin Dickinson and I was born in 1935 at Church Street, South Witham. My grandparents kept the Angel Inn in Church Street. My father used to work on the white-stone pit at South Witham. White-stone is the lime-stone. They would excavate the stone, break it up with hammers and throw it into the wagons. That went to the alum works at Howell near Melton and was used in the making of cast-iron pipes for Stanton. He went to Thistleton School. I had three brothers and three sisters, four of whom are still living. I was the last of the family. I have a photograph with them all on as children, but I am not on it as I wasn`t born then.
I went to South Witham School when I was five until I was fourteen and then I went to St Michael`s School at Stamford for a year. A Blankley`s bus would pick us up and then go round all the villages, Castle Bytham, Little Bytham, Witham-on-the-Hill, Ryhall and then Stamford. I caught the bus at about eight o`clock every morning. I liked Stamford School because of the sport. I played football and cricket . If there was anything that needed doing the sports master used to get me to do it, like getting the cricket pitch ready and fixing the wickets. I was captain of the football team. I played for South Witham village team, and Market Overton and Sewstern. At sixteen I had a trial for Lincolnshire. I still have the programme. When I left school, I went as an apprentice carpenter at Stanton Ironstone at Sewstern. I was apprenticed under Bill Marriott from Buckminster. I did 3 years apprenticeship and then packed it in because my mates were getting more money that I was. So I went on to work on the locos which was called rope-work. It involved coupling the wagons on until they got to the sidings.
I biked to work from South Witham to Sewstern each day. I did that until I went into the Army which was in 1953. I went in at 18 to do my National Service. I was in the Royal Lincolnshire Regiment. After doing a 6-week training at Lincoln, I was posted to Goseck in Germany. I was there about 6 months and then I was sent to guard the War Criminals in Spandau Prison. I saw Hess and Doenitz. Hess went mad, the other prisoners wouldn`t have anything to do with him. He would come out in the courtyard and the rest of them would be doing their bits of gardening but he was all on his own. He was the one who landed in Scotland during the War. Doenitz was an admiral and was in charge of the submarines. There were others but I can`t remember their names. I did guard duties mainly, that`s what we went to Berlin for. We went on Spandau guard for 3 months at a time. The Americans, French and Russian took turns of 3 months each as well. We had all sorts of guards, High Commissioner`s Residence guard, gate guard, prowler guard, camp patrols.
I was in the Army two years. I saw things and places I never would have seen like Arnhem Bridge and most of Berlin. The wall wasn`t up then. I passed my driving test in Berlin going through the Brandenburg Gate. When I first went there, I couldn`t believe it. Berlin was divided into four sectors, the American, the French, the Russian and ours. The rubble had been cleared in our sector but very little had been done to clear it in the Russian sector. It was in a terrible mess. We came back to Warwick and the battalion went off to Malaya but my time was nearly up so I got demobbed from Warwick. I went back to work at Stewart and Lloyds driving bulldozers reclaiming the land after it had been worked and the ironstone taken out. British Steel came into being later when all the ironstone mines were nationalised.
I met my wife at Marston Village Hall at a dance. She lived here in this house. In fact she was born here, Betty Woods. Her mother died and she looked after the family, Archie, Owen and Bill, and her father. When we got married I moved in to live with them. This house has a large garden and I love gardening. Strangely enough, I was not allowed to go onto my father`s garden. Only my eldest brother was allowed to help him in. I had no knowledge of gardening when I came here to live with Mr Woods. He used to grow and sell his vegetables and bedding plants. He had a big greenhouse with water pipes all round. He used to make the fire up from the outside in a big stove on the end of the greenhouse. We used to sell the produce in Colsterworth. Bett`s brother, Bill, had a shop on the High Street and he used to sell quite a bit of it.
He was crippled and had an invalid car. This house has been in the family for about 85 years. Mr Ingle, who was an engineer of some sort, built it and a bloke called Pepper lived here at some time. Mr Ingle left his money to the Ingle Charity Trust. It used to be called Dunkirk House but we call it The Limes. Mr Woods put down the drive and built the wall along the bottom. The bricks that were left over went to build Blankley`s garage on the A1. There was a brickworks near here. At one time there were only four houses this side of the bridge, Pheasant Cottage, the little thatched cottage by the bridge, and Sid Moulsher`s house round the back of Pheasant Cottage near the entrance to the industrial park.
Bet`s father came from Buckinghamshire and her mother came from Marston. She was a Pearson and there are still Pearsons farming at Marston. They would go over to visit the grandparents at Marston and had to help making the butter, take the cows up, load the hay mind you that was fun being on a horse and cart. Bet went to Colsterworth School under Mr Harrison.. He was very nice though if you did anything wrong, he was like everyone else, he would square you up. The children used to take potatoes to school and cook them under the old fire in school and eat them later. They used to play in the field at the bottom of the lane and paddle in the river, though it is not possible now because of all the glass and stuff. They used to spend hours playing in the river. Bet was the youngest one of her family so when she left school she had to stay at home. This was what happened years ago, the youngest girl was expected not to go out to work or to get married but to stay at home and care for the parents when they got old.
During the war we used to see the paratroopers practising their jumps from Stoke. The sky would be black with them all floating down. Nearly everybody in the village got hold of parachute silk. We boys used to collect those silver foil strips the German planes used to drop to confuse the radar. We had a few bombs dropped. One dropped on North Witham School on a Good Friday. We heard it coming down and my father said to my mother, `Get those kids under the table!` I was married to Bet in Colsterworth church by the Reverend Dawes in 1961. It was a white wedding with 150 guests. There were three bridesmaids all in white. We held the reception at the Coronation Hall in South Witham. Blankley`s buses took the guests from the church to South Witham. Mr Gale who lived at Woolsthorpe used to be in charge of the buying and selling for British Steel, cleaning materials, or diesel or anything that side of it. He came to my wedding but died just afterwards. We went to stay with my auntie in Leicester for our honeymoon. We had one son, Keith and we have a baby grand-daughter named Tegan.
Bet worked down here at the iron-works and then for 17 years at Salversons. Anyway, after the Thistleton mine opened up and there was a bit more money going, I went down that mine which was underground workings. I was on the bulldozers again. It was a good job, you were your own boss. I never had any proper training for it. My brother was already on the bulldozers, well they only had one bulldozer. It wasn`t like it was towards the end, when they had 6 or 7. I used to go round to Harlaxton, Eton, Tilton, all round the quarries. There were a lot of quarries. When we had cleared them up and put all the topsoil back and restored the landscape. Then I went underground at Thistleton where I got injured. The Thistleton mine was about 300 feet deep. I was clearing up the headings with little bulldozers and a drop with a bucket on the front. I was on what they called a Joyshuttle cart. It was an American transporter that transported the iron ore from the face to the conveyor belt. I got crushed against the wall. On the shuttle cars you had 22 feet in front of you and nothing at the back. You sat right on the very edge at the back. I hit the wall and the seat buckled up. I was off work 9 months. I lost part of my back at the side. I claimed compensation but Stuart Lloyds would not pay up, so my union took them to court. I had to attend Leicester Assizes and we won.
When I got so that I could work again I went down the mine again in the stores where we used to shoe the tongs and deal out the stuff that they wanted. Eventually, all the iron ore mines were nationalised. The whole lot became British Steel. I must say the work was better before, much steadier going. Things then crept up to what they are today. You had to record when the machinery was standing idle. Before you just did your job. If your machine broke down, you just waited until it was mended and then got on with it again. Under British Steel you had forms to fill in to say how long you were still. After that I went to the gravel pits at Asfordby when they closed the Thistleton mine. I stuck it for about 3 weeks and my brother-in-law, Archie, came home from Easton mine and said the Mr Worrell wants to know if you would like a job. He had heard that I used to be a bulldozer driver before I got injured. I went up to his house at night and he set me on and I went up to the Easton mine then.
When Easton mine closed, I came down here although I was told there were only labouring jobs available. Anyway, I came down here and on the Monday I started on the bulldozers and scrapers and all earth-moving equipment until 1971 when it all packed up. I was all round this area, Number 2 pit and North pit clearing and levelling and putting the land back to what it was before they started on these massive excavations. If you walk up there now, there is hardly an indication of them. When they were talking about doing the landfill we had a meeting, and a man there said that if you go up the Stainby road and look across down towards the A1, the landscape, he said, is absolutely beautiful. We thought it was an absolute mess because we never had enough stuff to put back. There was very little soil up there to really put it back again as it was. So we went up there and had a look and it didn`t look too bad really.
The mining hereabouts was a huge undertaking employing people from all the villages nearby. They came by bike or on foot from Colsterwoth and Woolsthorpe of course, Stainby, the Withams, Sewstern. Buckminster, Thistleton, Easton, Stoke, Gunby, Corby Glen, Swinstead and many more. Quite a few men came from Grantham. I went down to Grantham after that to be a welder and I did 6 years welding for Creamay Engineering. I then went up to Christian Salversons and did my last eighteen years up there. I was a high-reach truck driver. The trucks could stack boxes of frozen chips 30 feet into the air. We would get the orders out and put the stuff that came from the factory into the freezer. I retired when I was 62, and that`s where we`ve got to.