THE HISTORY OF BOOTLE AS I SAW IT
I am at
the time of writing this 89 years old. I was born during the first World
War in February 1916 Bootle my parents were James and Maud Finch. I was
the seventh child out of eventually a family of nine.
My father was a tanner in the Litherland Tannery. He died from anthrax
contracted from the skins when my youngest brother was only 6 weeks old.
I don't remember much about the early years of my life but I do know that
we were a poor family from that moment on. It was a shock to my mother
with nine of us to care for. Money was means tested and she only received
10 shillings a week and could not subsidise this in any way when she tried
by having an allotment so that we had some fresh food, she was penalised
and taken to a tribunal the local priest was on the tribunal panel and
he knew that she was only trying to feed her family and it was not for
profit. The charges were dropped but the allotment had to go.
My mother was born in Ford Sefton and my cousin Audrey used to say that
she could throw a bale of hay better than any man.
We didn't have toys like the children of today we used to go the clay
pits armed with a bottle of water and if you were lucky, a penny worth
of lemonade powder. We played shop all day using bits of wood and making
the things to sell from the clay in our world of make believe.
Christmas was a bad time in our house. Christmas dinner consisted of a
hot pot left in the back jigger outside your yard door by the police fund.
We used to get tickets for the charity parties and there were always fights
over who deserved to go, we all did really but you only got 2 tickets.
One year we were left out completely imagine no xmas dinner.
As kids we tried to do our bit to help. We used to go with a battered
old pram and stand in queues for hours for a small bag of coke from the
gas works. If you didn't have an old pram the neighbours would lend you
one, everyone helped everyone in those days. My elder sister used to chop
wood and sell it round the doors to make a penny or two. These were hard
years but happy ones and its hard to explain why.
Aunty Margaret did a lot for Bootle, she had a place in Marsh lane and
ran the Bootle May Day celebrations. Once I was chosen to be lilac in
lilacs in may. I was all dressed in lilac and rode on the float, I thought
I looked lovely and felt like a Princess.
Clothes and shoes were a big problem and were often passed round the family
suitably altered to fit, in some schools you would not be allowed in if
you didn't have shoes so the toes would be stuffed with paper to make
them fit. As the family grew older things became a little easier, my brothers
went into the Merchant Navy and to work in Reids Tin Works and my mother
was able to put £5 down on a house in Spencer Place. She was now
working as a cleaner in the schools and I used to help her by putting
the chairs on the tables and emptying the baskets.
We had a neighbourhood policeman, we called him Gigger Mike and we respected
him, he kept us in our place as did the teachers in my school Orrell Road.
We had a school board and woe betide you if you played truant. Mrs Nixon
was our mistress and she ruled with an iron fist you knew that you would
be in for the cane if you were late. I was a bright child and passed the
eleven plus but of course I couldnt go to college how could we afford
When I was 14 I went into service and went to work for Lord and Lady Neston.
The hours were long, you wore a uniform and it was taken for granted that
you would work extra when they entertained but at least I could send money
home to help out. I met my late husband on a visit to my Aunt in 1939
we married and had a son in 1940.
War was on the cards by this time and we all had to do our bit, and I
went to work in Littlewoods helping to build the barrage balloons. At
night those women with young children like myself were loaded onto flat
back lorries and taken out to Lydiate or Ormskirk to spend the night in
the open watching the bombs light up the sky and wondering what carnage
you would find when you returned home in the morning. Sometimes it was
left too late and you had to scurry to the air raid shelter in the yard.
I decided to change my job and went to work in the Royal Ordinance Factory
examining the rifle parts. I did this for 5 nights a week and I can remember
it as if it was yesterday. You felt important and did the job well, knowing
a soldiers life depended on it. Sadly I lost my younger brother who was
in the Merchant Navy, he was only 17 years of age.
When I look back Bootle has always known how to celebrate with Church
Parades, May Days, Orangemans days street parties to celebrate one thing
or another, communities coming together to enjoy themselves providing
lasting memories, and parties into the next day sometimes longer. The
good old days we never had the money some people seem to have today but
we were happy.
The children played in the street with balls, swinging round the lamp,
off ground tick, allalley o'hop scotch , top and whip, cherry wags, skipping
these to name a few. Now my great grandchildren have computers, Play Station
games, boys e.t.c. toys that are for solitary enjoyment, its no wonder
they don't know how to play together, they don't have to.
I feel that the thing that has been the most important is the advancement
in technology bringing all the labour saving devices we have today, leaving
us more freetime to enjoy life but taking some of the old family values
Jane Sumner (memories of bootle)