INTERVIEW WITH EDNA THORNLEY AND HER BROTHER JOHN HUGHES
John was best friends with John Rawsthorne. Edna was born in the cottage next to the Three Horseshoes, which although had been a pub, was actually a shop when she was a child, owned by Alice and Clarence Lees. John was born in Stafford Hospital as their Mother had contracted septicaemia when she gave birth to Edna so her health was of some concern.
Albert Dix kept the Red Lion Pub, and Mrs. Foden lived in the cottage next door. Mrs. Dix was Edna’s Godmother; Edna used to go to the pub and play, but had to go home as soon as they opened up. The pub was the first place in the village to sell ice cream, then the shops followed – Mrs Lees then Mrs. Clay at the Post Office/shop.
The bus service to Seighford County Primary school had just started when Edna was due to start school. The school took children to the age of 11 and they would then have to go to Stafford after taking their 11 plus to determine whether they went to the Grammar School or not. However, when her mother (Mary Ellen Elsmore, but known as Nelly) went to school she had to walk. If their feet were wet when they got to school, they were made to walk back home. The Head teacher, Mr. Plant, was very strict and used to throw blackboard rubbers etc at them. Nelly left school at 13 and went into service, looking after children from Lane End Farm (she hated this job), she worked her way up to Cook and then worked at various places in Stafford.
Boons was the main employer in the village other than farming – they took sick animals to slaughter and used them for rendering into fat for the making of soap, the bones were used for bonemeal and the skins went to the tanners, the meat for dog food. Healthy animals were slaughtered for human consumption. Locals never needed to go far to obtain maggots for fishing!
There was a local character who worked there – he was deaf and dumb and had the nickname of ‘dummy’ – they didn’t know his real name. He was a well loved character in the village and everyone looked out for him, but the overpowering smell of his job lingered on his body! He also used to deliver newspapers, but they too smelt of Boons, which was renowned in the area for the awful smell which came from it – if the wind was in the ‘wrong’ direction you could smell it for miles.
John’s first job at the age of about 3 years, was to accompany his dad on the ‘bone round’ collecting bones from Stafford and surrounding areas – he used to hold the bag open – from which bonemeal was made. As a child he used to watch the cattle slaughtered and have a bet with the Head slaughter man, Harry Cooper, on how far the blood would go! A slaughter man by the name of Fred Leyton became famous in the area for killing two sick foals with one bullet, using a 12 bore shotgun with a ball cartridge.
Chiddler Harvey looked after the grass verges and they always looked very tidy.
Fred Clay’s wife organised everything for the children, she was a very nice lady – organised Sunday school outings and trips to the Pantomime, and they all had a present. Godfrey Mitchell also organised a lot of events in the village for the children.
As children, Edna and John used to get lifts into town on a horse and trap. There were only about 6 children of the same age and they were quite a close community, gossip was rife and everyone knew everyone else’s business. The Church was so cold they took hot water bottles. Mr. Wright was the vicar (he is in the picture of the opening of the flats). He lost his wife and had a son called Chad. Once, in the middle of the service at Seighford church, he suddenly told his son to go and turn the potatoes off! He did his job well but he was a bit of a character, in a good way. He was always where he was needed and did his rounds on his bicycle.
John remembers an occasion where Brian Harvey threw an apple at Malcolm Cooper as he cycled past their garden, which he threw back. When he tried to return that way, he found the road blocked by women linking arms, lead by Rose Harvey, and they wouldn’t let him go past as they said he was a bad lad!
Mrs. Kenny was the crossing keeper; she used to go to the Red Lion for a pint every day (they used to wonder who would open the crossing gates if a train went through at lunch time!). She controlled the signals by the motorway bridge and at Haughton.
The children used to wave to the engine drivers; they used to walk on the parapet of the bridge and wait for the train to come and then get covered in steam/smoke. It was a steady incline from Stafford and they knew which way the trains were going by the sound they made. The children were always mindful of the rules and never crossed the railway tracks.
Mrs. Lester and her son Brian used to live in Rose Cottage, Mount Pleasant.