Where you are: Living Memories - Elsie Lester

Elsie Lester, nee Kitching. Born 23/07/1916


Memories of Tickhill, South Yorkshire.

Elsie Lester, nee Kitching. Born 23/07/1916

Elsie's son, Michael, tells us that his mother passed away on 22nd June 2011. We hope that this lively contribution will help to keep memories of her alive.

My son, Mick, says someone is asking for people who have any anecdotes about Tickhill School. Well, I went to the infant school at 5 years old (Sunderland Street), then the second school. The head teacher was Benjamin Shaw, a very good teacher. He went on holiday and came home with a wife from Canada! The teacher I liked most was Mr Greenhough. He was very tall and thin, and very knowledgeable about the stars and planets (which was the death of him, as he was out with his wife and daughter one night, stargazing, and a man on a bike with no lights ran into him and killed him! That was after I had left the school). There was a young teacher who used to try and get me to talk in front of the class but I was petrified of being looked at as I had a squint! In a younger class there was a Miss Foulstone who was a legend in her day. She was very short and was notorious for jumping up on a chair to gain attention and had a very loud voice.

I know I hated history and maths (except mental arithmetic) but enjoyed Swedish drill which we had daily after roll call, prayers and a hymn (as it was a church school!) But games I never liked, as I never could run. There was a school anthem Mr Shaw taught us for Sports Day:

Play up Tickhill, this should our anthem be,

Play up Tickhill! This means both you and me!

Play up Tickhill boys and Tickhill girls

We will do our best as Sheffield plays

At play or work we will never shirk

Downhearted? No not we!

Play up Tickhill!


Tickhill had some good shops. From Northgate was Jarvis, and Jenkinsons, a very good grocers who baked their own cakes and bread (they would also bake large cakes for anyone who had no suitable oven). They also had a clothes shop in Sunderland Street.

Then there was Hunter’s (a clothes shop), then Timsons, a shoe shop. I think they are the same country wide firm, as they had a few sons and they were all shoemakers. I used to look longingly in their shop window but could never have their shoes!! Then there was a butchers shop, and a paper and sweet shop which is still there opposite the cross. Then there were offices and a pub, the Castlegate, with Mr Winfrey on the corner, then three separate Co-op shops opposite to three other shops (sweets, greengrocers and another). Then there was another greengrocers and a sweetshop where I would spend my pennies because he used to give us good weight! Near our house was a small sweet shop. The garage was opposite by Smith’s farm. And a small shop, sweets, tobacco etc kept by Mrs Bridges who was my godmother (a Scotswoman)! She had married twice and was also known as Mrs Milner! I don’t know which was her current name, although she was a friend of my mother. Does anyone remember her? 

Does anyone remember going to stand outside pubs as the buses or charabancs drew up on their way home from the Leger at Donny, and shouting ‘hip hip hooray mister!’ in the hope of a winner throwing some loose change out? It happened at the Carpenter’s Arms and at The Millstone.

Also, can you imagine a child nowadays following another child who was eating an apple, and begging to be given the core, or watching it was not thrown away? I can clearly remember the plea, ‘Givust core’ (give me the apple core please). They were the days when an apple or orange in the toe of a Christmas stocking was a real treasure.

Our house in Castlegate was ideal for a big family as it had a huge yard with stables and cart sheds and a huge barn and garden with a 9 foot high stone wall round it. There were lofts over the stables. It was an ideal place to bring a friend to play in. It was demolished and at least 6 terraced houses were built in its place.

Opposite us was the castle and the Mill Dam, which when I was young used to be working and was a bit frightening when the water was rushing under the bridges, then out of the other side and down the water fall! Sometimes we’d go round the mill and were given a sample of the seeds they were grinding (usually for animal feed), beans etc. The dam fed the castle moat then wandered through the castle fields. An idyllic place! Plus there was a rookery in the trees and the swallows swooping over the water surface at dusk.

I had a milk round at 4.30am and after school. I took 6 cans at a time, 3 in each hand (then back to take six more, and again and again, summer and winter). Most people had 1 pint and some only half a pint! At weekends some people had 2 pints! I must have been very tough as I walked miles a day (and not only me, a boy called Reg Davis was also one of us). I was paid 2 shillings a week for that, which mam used to take. But I didn’t tell her that sometimes I had 1 or 2 pennies as tips which I spent on halfpenny worth of sweets or monkey nuts from the greengrocers in Castlegate! On one of my school reports the headmaster wrote  ‘E L seems tired’! 

Then I had a bad knee and ended up in hospital at Doncaster for weeks with a ‘pre patella bursa’. I was proud to quote that name to any enquirers! My mam was also in hospital by then after her last child, with anaemia. My poor old dad had to cope as best he could. By then my oldest sister was married, my three older brothers were married, another older sister was in service in London, and there were two younger sisters and a brother at junior school. I had a plaster on my leg for 6 months after coming out of hospital, so things were hard as my dad was on the dole by then. Poor dad!

I don’t know if it was my 11th or 12th birthday whilst I was in hospital, but I missed my 11+ exam for which I’d begun having homework for! But I never went back to school afterwards. When mam came home, I later went into service in London with Dolly, my sister who was 5 years older than I. Bless her, she died at 29 of a brain tumour. She was an angelic girl! She’s had what was known as ‘infantile paralysis’ in those days, which left her with a limp always. Before she died she used to have severe headaches, but always kept working! She took me on holiday to the seaside once for a week!

Whilst I was in hospital, I had no visitors at all, but my sister Kit (Katie) sent me a present by post at Easter. Two lovely Easter eggs! I showed them to one of the nurses and said ‘would you like a piece of one?’, at which she took them both away and I never saw them again or tasted one at all! I was very hurt about that as I was going to share them with my own younger brothers and sisters. I’d never had anything so lovely in my life before! I never told Kit or anyone about it because I didn’t see anyone! No one had money to spend on bus fares or hospital visiting in those days! Looking back, I was lucky in a way, that I was in hospital and being looked after and well fed for those two or more months!  I enjoyed the stay, apart from the morning and evening sessions when the nurse came to clean out my operation site with the gauze, forceps and Lysol! Thank god that someone invented antibiotics! But they made a very good job of my knee! 



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