John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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My first visit to Grimsby — Friday

Early Days

Friday 30th October 1964
 1. The memories of all that Chris and I did during this, my first visit to Grimsby, have been eroded, fragmented and erased over the years. A much later note concerning the Friday of the visit lists only the following:
  • Visits to relatives
  • Docks
  • Neptune Street incident
Visits to relatives
 2. Relatives of Chris that I remember visiting are Nunky and Aunt Grace at 46 Lister Street, Grimsby, and Aunt Mar who lived with them. “Nunky”, “Nunk” or “Unc” was Uncle Charlie Berriman, very much a “colourful character”, almost literally, for he seemed to take very seriously the painting part of the military motto, “If it moves, salute it; if it don’t, paint it.” Not only did he paint expected items, such as the garden shed, in contrasting (and not always harmonious) colours from leftover gloss paint; but unexpected items as well were subjected to the Nunk treatment, including a large brass wall-plaque with a centrepiece depicting an old inn scene.
  Aunt Grace was his longsuffering wife, and Aunt Mar (short for Marion) was her unmarried sister.

The Nunk plaque

An untreated, but otherwise identical, item, for auction on eBay in 2010

 3. These three were sure to have been fairly high up on our list of visits that morning, and one supposes that Woja and Nanny Woodhead would have been too;[1] they all lived in the same part of town, anyway. Nanny Woodhead was Chris’s widowed grandmother on his dad’s side, and Woja (a nickname coined by Chris’s cousin Brian) was his recently widowed grandfather on his mum’s side. (His late wife was the sister of Aunt Grace and Aunt Mar; she died during the first week of September 1964.)

[1] One supposes that Woja… would have been [fairly high up on our list of visits] too: We can’t say for sure, though, whether Woja was in Grimsby at the time of our visit or whether he was in Thornton. It came about that, around the time of the school mid-term break in October, Woja would come and spend the winter period with his younger daughter (Chris’s mum) in Thornton. But Chris’s Nan had only recently died, so it is possible that this procedure had not yet been established; Woja may not have come to Thornton the first time till just before Christmas.

 4. I remember also that we visited the home of a couple who seemed young, especially in comparison with the others: this was Margaret and Mike Dolphin, who lived at 149 Lord Street, Grimsby. In fact, Margaret was about 30 at this time. They weren’t “family”, but they were given a similar status. Margaret grew up at 44 Lister Street, Grimsby, and referred to Chris’s relatives at 46 as Aunt Mar, Aunt Grace and Unc. (Perhaps, as they had no children of their own, they kind of “adopted” Margaret.) When she married Mike Dolphin on 9th June 1956, at the Catholic church in Watkin Street, Grimsby, Chris was a page-boy at their wedding.

 5. Chris and I both think that we went “down dock”, as we might have put it, but can’t remember much about it. Did someone take us for a visit to the docks? Chris thinks that we just went on our own. However, it wasn’t always easy to get onto the docks in those days: there was a police box at the entrance, at the Fish Dock Road level crossing, and one was likely to be stopped and asked what one’s business was there. Maybe we just slipped by, when nobody was looking!

Postcard from Chris, 15th April 1966. The docks were reached by turning right into Riby Square.

Postcard from Chris, 27th July 1966

Fish Docks, Grimsby
This image is from Francis Frith, and can be purchased here.

Postcard from Chris, 1970

Neptune Street incident
 6. The story Ann Nurse says of our visit:

The whole time that we had been there, we had been wandering around in Grimsby and Cleethorpes, looking out for girls to try to get off with.

 In fact, only three incidents are recalled in notes, and the “Neptune Street incident” is the first of them.

 7. On the Friday evening of our visit we spotted two suitable-looking candidates down Alexandra Road, Cleethorpes.
[2] To each other we would probably refer to them as “lasses” or “birds”. Anyway, we approached these two “lasses” and tried to chat them up. I suppose we used the opening line, “Have you got a light?” (If they were then to answer, “No, we don’t smoke”,[3] we would reply, “In that case—”, and take out a box of matches and light cigarettes ourselves.) As we walked along, one of them may have asked me, “Are you all right?”, looking at my feet. One of the Collinge-requisites for being “hard” was to strut with feet turned outwards,[4] not to walk in a pigeon-toed way, and evidently I was finding this act difficult to carry off with conviction. “Are you sure he’s all right?” the other may have asked Chris. All in all, though, their attitude to us was perhaps one of nonchalance, neither encouraging nor discouraging, as we strolled (in my case, perhaps, stumbled) with them as far as Neptune Street, Cleethorpes; so we were taken aback, as we reached the first row of terraced houses on the left, when they entered the front yard of the first house, and just disappeared into the front door, closing it behind them. We hung around for several minutes, probably knocking on the door a number of times. Possibly we also called out to them, or whistled, after we had been so abruptly shut out. Eventually they appeared at the upstairs window on the right, above the front bay window, and told us to “go away.” (I remember their pronunciation of “go”. It was the first time I noticed a significant difference between the accents in Cleethorpes and Thornton. It sounded like “gɛʊ”, whereas in Thornton one would have heard “goʊ” or the monophthongal “gɔ:”. The dictionary pronunciation is “gəʊ”.) When we were persistent they threatened to tell their fathers—or one of them threatened to tell her father—that we were pestering them. This served to deter us; we went away, although we had doubts about the fathers’[5] being on the premises.

[2] It may have been in this location that Chris, in mocking imitation of the Yorkies who visited Cleethorpes, described them as saying, “Ooooh, looook at the byooootiful gardens!” Cleethorpes was a holiday resort popular with people from the industrial towns of Yorkshire.
[3] Or in this case, perhaps, “Nɛʊ, we dɛʊn’t smɛʊk”!
[4] See Brian Collinge: Being “hard”.
[5] Or father’s

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