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Stillington and District Community Archive

In the Heart of North Yorkshire

An Evacuee's Story

This set of memories are by Anthony Richards, who came as an evacuee with his twin brother, Ambrose, to Stillington Hall during WWII: one of about 400 who came from Hull to the Easingwold area. He also describes his time at Stillington as very happy, and wishes he could remember more...

'My brother and myself were 10 year old twins evacuated from St Charles Roman Catholic School in Hull to Brandsby. We were left standing alone in the Village Hall, the last ones, and were allocated to Cherry Hill. Five or six servants looked after us until we were transferred to Stillington Hall, because of bed wetting (we never did find out which one of us was to blame).'

'I can well remember the beautiful house coming into view and the impressive entrance. Our future home was a large building around the rear of the Hall. There was a dormitory with about 30 small camp beds in rows, military fashion, with a little cupboard next to each. In a corner, curtained off, was an area with a large double bed in which slept our guardian - a man called Jack Burke. I had never seen such a large bed just for one person - I came from a family of eight, with dad dying aged only 39 when we were just two years old. In two corners of the room were two buckets for the usual... Any noise was soon greeted by Jack’s loud, masterly and intimidating voice! '

'Friday nights were bath night - for all - and you had to wait your turn sitting in what might have been stables. I hated those Fridays, with the boys sitting waiting their turn with no clothes on, trying to decide if you would go at the shout of ‘Next!’, or wait until the water was a little cooler - it was always red hot at the beginning - and Jack worked fast and furiously. The elder boys helped with the drying, which I tried to avoid, as they were a little too enthusiastic, and the towels were like horsehair.
We soon found out that everyone had jobs to do on a rota, perhaps serving at early morning Mass, which I enjoyed and the Latin knowledge helped at our local church when we returned home. There were other jobs to do, working in the kitchens and gardens and I got a turn at all as the weeks went by. Each boy was allocated one of the Alexian Brothers, who looked after their welfare - my twin brother was cared for by Brother David and Brother Anthony took care of me- I kept in touch with him for a long time during the war.'

'My twin and I were picked out, (I’ve no idea why!), to go in a car with two of the brothers, at least, to the surrounding villages to teach First Aid. We were, of course, the volunteer patients. It was very enjoyable. We got to know so much that when it came to the exams we were able to whisper, discretely, the positions of the bandages. All this experience, I’m sure, helped in my 25 years as a paramedic.'

'One thing that had a devastating effect on my life happened in the walled garden on an extremely hot day: there was a huge greenhouse within the walls and within the greenhouse, sunk into a corner, was a old, deep tank filled with dirty water about eight feet deep - as I was to find out! For some reason, probably because I was overheated, Brother Serenus made me get into the tank. I clung desperately to the side trying to keep my head above water as Brother Serenus kept dunking my head under, saying in his French accent, “Go down again.” This seemed to go on for ages. I felt sick, frightened and could hardly get my breath. Eventually it stopped but left me petrified as I couldn’t swim - I’d never even been to the baths in 1939 as I was too young. The whole incident has remained etched on my mind to this day.'

'Ambrose and I were moved into the Main House, sharing a room with a boy called George. This must have been when we were going on the First Aid instructions. We were in the attics, I think the Hall still had paying guests. George, our roommate, got a rose thorn in his face and it blew up like a balloon. Isn’t it funny what you remember!? Lessons took place in the Village Hall on the Green. We burnt the teacher’s cane! Four of us pushed into the stove - we’d made a pact to do the deed together and share the guilt. (MUST have gone to confession that weekend)
Passing our 11plus in the Village Hall brought to an end our life in Stillington as we went to join the Marist College at Holme on Spalding Moor.
They were such happy times and I wish I could remember more.'

'What did the future bring? Ambrose became a Litho Printer, and stuck to that trade, before dying of prostate cancer. I did eight years as a piano tuner, 18 years in the Fire Brigade before transferring to the Ambulance Service. I married my childhood sweetheart, and we had two girls and a boy. And I’m still terrified of water!'

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