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       Growing up in Mexborough by Brian Wright

Brian Wright, long-time contributor to the Heritage Society web site, particularly regarding aspects of life at Mexborough Grammar School, has been in touch.

Previously we reported he was producing a memoir of his time in the town and at the school, and recently he provided us with a series of photos which he has included.

From his home in Cumbria, Brian has kindly sent the accompanying photographs, chronicling his early life and interests, and including many of his contemporaries..



Doncaster Road Junior School - 11+ successes

Doncaster Road Junior School -
Football team 1950

Doncaster Road Junior School  - Mr Chadwick's class  1949

Mexborough Grammar School

Malcolm Pendlebury presenting Rev A J Bishop with a leaving present.



Street Games
From Brian's memoir

 On our estate as we grew up there was only one car! Ted’s family had a second hand Hillman Minx soft topped car. It was not with us for long as Ted’s dad got promotion and they were able to buy their own house.

The only other vehicles visiting the estate were the weekly visit from the greengrocer, initially with a horse and cart, the occasional delivery van or ice cream van and the loads of coal tipped on the “causie” (pavement, footpath) from local pits. Many a ton of coal I’ve shovelled off the “causie”. The lack of traffic meant that we could play on the street in comparative safety. Apart from the usual games of football and cricket we had various other games we would play during the day or at night. Cricket had extra rules such as “6 and out” when you bashed the ball into somebody’s garden. One game proved costly for Dickie when trying to move somebody out of the way he took a blow to the eye resulting in days in bed in reduced light plus early penicillin cream, to save his sight. A regular daytime game was marbles. This was either played along the gutters or as a ring game.

We had one girl, Marge, who played mabs with us and often beat us. We used to play on a waste patch alongside Goligher’s shop. It was here Our Ken had an accident which started a condition he was to live with for a long time. We had been playing in the morning and gone home for dinner. Ken lived nearest and was back first. Whatever happened next we shall never know. He apparently over balanced and fell banging his head on the wall. From that day into adult life he used to blackout which gave us some interesting times. (more about those later) Another daytime game was peggy. This game is called piggy, nipsy, knell and spurl in various parts of the county.

Our version of the game was an individual game with the peggy, mine was made from the end of big hammer handle shaped to a point, balanced on a building brick it was the struck with a large stick so it flew up so it could be hit as far as possible. We then guessed how many paces it had been hit. Then we paced out our guess and then tried to knock the stick from the brick. If successful it was our turn to strike the peggy. “Finger, thumb, a dumb a little granny” was another common game. Two teams toss for who starts. One team makes a set of backs up against a wall whilst the other charges across the road and jumps on the backs with the idea of making it collapse. Once on board the chant goes up “finger, thumb, a dumb, a little granny”. The object is for the team underneath puts up a finger/thumb etc for the others to guess which.

Then a test was set to do some challenge usually to travel some distance hopping, running, trousers up or down etc. Whichever side got the guessing wrong had to do the test whilst the others went to hide. After the test the team has to search for the hiders. If they could all get back to base before being found the game started again. “Jack Jack shine a light” was another version of hide and seek played after dark. The lads went off to hide and then the search began. If nobody was found the cry went up “Jack Jack shine a light” Lights would appear all around the area. The trick was to move as quickly and quietly as possible in the dark before the searcher moved in. Again if you could get back to base you were good for the next game.

Although it was not exactly a game but the collecting and guarding the wood for the bonfire was a regular activity each October. Timber was found, collected and dragged back to the garden where the bonfire was going to be held. It would be piled up ready but large logs would be locked away in someone’s “coil oil”(coal house). At night various members of the gang would make a camp in the pile of branches to ward of any potential “rustlers”. Occasional “accidents” happened when the pile was ignited to spoil the fun on the day. Fortunately nobody was ever injured in these skirmishes but it sometimes meant that more timber had to be found! Mischief night was the time when such “accidents” usually occurred.

Also on mischief night, 4th November, apart from a few gates that were taken off and hidden, we used to get our own back on anyone who had kept our ball that had gone in their garden. The two favourite ways was to light a Brock’s Blockbuster and drop it in a dustbin. Dustbins were of course metal as everyone had open fires and hence hot ash. Although these 1/2d bangers were tiny but they would blow the lid off with a great bang. The other was to light a “bull roarer” in a drainpipe. The drainpipe was stuffed with newspaper and set alight. The noise was fantastic as it roared up the pipe. Sometimes flames would come out of top adding to the spectacle as we watched from a safe distance. It would not work today with plastic fall pipes. During the firework season we used to take a few to choir practice as the church yard backed unto the canal. A Standard 2d Chinese Canon would be tied to a brick, lit and dropped into the canal. In seconds there was a mighty explosion and a great jet of water thrown into the air with us running for cover to avoid a soaking.

Whip and top was another pastime at certain times of year, usually around Easter. “Winda brekas” were the favourite tops. These small sprightly tops would fly off anywhere as the whip wrapped round the top and then flung it anywhere hence its name. Others varied in size and shape from small carrot shaped ones to great big jumbo ones. We used to colour the tops with chalk so they made patterns as they spun.

Kite making and flying was another of our pastimes. These were made from canes and paper usually of the traditional kite shape and fairly small, a foot or two in length by a foot wide. These small ones we would fly in the street often getting tangled in trees in gardens or around lampposts. Larger ones we flew on a field either on the Stoney Dessert or the school field. The largest I remember was six feet tall made by Les Hawcroft. It was made from brown paper, newspaper wasn’t strong enough, and had a tail so long it took two or three of us to carry it. A strong breeze was needed to get it aloft and took some holding but it made a grand spectacle.

After the war RAF kites appeared. These were usually yellow box kites used for getting weather reading readings at altitude. We also had tents, costing 1/6d, made from pieces of barrage balloons. A couple of incidents, I remember, which occurred on the street involved dogs. One day we were walking up Conway Terrace when the older lads shout to us to run. I was in the lead but felt something was not quite right so I stopped. Terry Taylor passed me and as he reached the lads they opened the gate and Dennis’ dog flew out and bit Terry! The lads were a taken aback and of course that was the end of the dog. The other involved a large white English Bull Terrier. The owner was a big youngish chap who had come to live at the top of the terrace. This dog was loose, as most dogs were, and it attacked another smaller dog. It was doing some damage to the little dog when Sid Crow senior saw what was happening, went indoors, came out with a kettle of hot water. He proceeded to pour some water on the Bull Terrier which yelped, let go of the little dog and ran home! The owner came dashing out ready to do battle but when he saw Sid with the kettle quietly turned and went in. Sid must have been 70 but his reputation was enough for the young chap as big as he was!

As there was virtually no traffic we also played cricket and football on the street. As mentioned elsewhere it was 6 and out it you hoicked the ball into someone’s garden. Elsewhere I’ve mention what happened if we did not get our ball back. One day Dickie was moving a youngster out of the way of the flying bat and was hit himself in the corner of the eye. This resulted in several days in near total darkness and apparently it was touch and go as to the damage done to the sight in that eye. The early form of penicillin cream stopped any infection. Another injury Dickie received was whilst playing football up Conway Terrace. Being “nudged” in the back caused him to swallow his denture! By the time he got back home, about 50 yards, apparently he was turning blue. Fortunately Dad was at home but could not reach the said denture.

His next attempt was to place one hand on my chest and with the side of his other one was to strike me between the shoulder blades. Two blows like that and the offending denture shot out hit my foot and shot across the kitchen!! Never have I been so relieved to witness Dad’s immense strength!! I did not put the denture back in for 6 weeks. The only other time Dad ever hit me was a simple back hander. I must have said something to Mum I had heard on the street to which he took a disliking. A backhander caught me fair and square and I sailed across the room landing in a crumpled heaped at the bottom of the stairs. He thought he had killed me and I certainly did! Never did touch me again. I have never known anyone so strong.

As a young man he worked as a blacksmith’s striker swinging a 28lb hammer all day. The result was he had biceps bigger than my thighs! Apparently when he was on thresher maintenance duty at Clarkes’ farm whilst the machine was running smoothly, which would be most of the time whilst “Seamus” was in charge, he would go up and down the steps to the barn carrying a hundred weight of corn under each arm. I would be hard pushed to carry one. Though on one occasion, in later life, I did carry him, weighing over 17 stones, on my back, up 3 flights of stairs so he could see the flat my sister was living in whilst at college.

He used to box in his younger days, until Grandma through his togs away when he gave someone a bit of a going over in the ring. I would not have liked to have faced him in the ring though he was the gentlest person you could wish to meet unless you crossed him or his family.

The only professional cricket match was the one at Brammall Lane and apparently in my excitement when Hutton got his century I must have accidentally kicked the person in front who turned round about to pan me one until Dad leaned forward. He obviously thought discretion was the order of the day and accepted an apology!



If you would like to contact Brian or share your memories and photos with the Society, please email us.