John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Timothy Leech

Early Days

Perhaps 1957
 1. It is our Steve who has to take the credit—or blame—for introducing Timothy Leech to our house.[1] Now normally there was no sharing of friends between Steve and me; he, being two years older than I was, tended to have friends his own age, and though up to this point I tended to be a bit solitary, what friends I had from time to time tended to be my own age. Timmy was the exception, but his age was intermediate between Steve’s and mine. When he came round to our house he would come to see either or both of us.

From photos taken at his school
(Baines’ Endowed School, Thornton)
 My chief recollections of Timmy in the earliest days are on Sunday mornings when Steve and I would walk home from Sunday School along Victoria Road. Timmy would walk with us between Wignall Memorial Methodist Church and his house at 129 Victoria Road.

“Between Wignall Memorial Methodist Church” (2003 photo)…

…“and his house at 129 Victoria Road” (1979 photos).

[1] It is our Steve who has to take the credit—or blame—for introducing Timothy Leech to our house: It is not clear how Timothy Leech first appeared on the scene. Originally, I wrote that he “enfriended” us on the way from Sunday School. Then some years ago Steve seemed to indicate that this was not so, that it was he whom Leech first met, and that I met Leech from his subsequently visiting our house. Later, although he couldn’t positively remember, Steve suggested that he did in fact first meet Leech on the way home from Sunday School, and that therefore perhaps I was there too. Leech could have been standing near his front gate, and just have started talking to him or us. Steve recalls Leech suggesting that he call round to our house later, and Steve not feeling too keen on the idea, for some reason. Anyway, Leech did call round, whether then, or eventually, and the rest is history. He was initially more Steve’s friend (if that is the right word to use; perhaps “enfriender” would be better) than he was mine—he was a year older than I was, and a year younger than Steve. (On second thoughts, he couldn’t have been quite a year older than I, for he was in the same year as I was—though not the same class; we went to different schools.) But later he latched more on to me.

2. One Sunday morning he met us on our way to Sunday School. It must have been before Sunday School that he met us, because, I remember, he attempted to sow the seeds of evil in us by trying to get us to spend our threepenny bits for the Sunday School collection on sweets—something that it would otherwise not have occurred to us to do (we were very “goody-goody” in those days). Presumably Timmy’s intention was to share in the proceeds of the theft. And such was our innocence that we told our Mum what Timmy had suggested, who explained that such an action would be dishonest.
 “Well, Timmy said—”
 “I don’t care what Timmy said!”

[x] Mum didn't tell me till very much later that when she was a girl and was sent to Sunday School with her older brother Jack, they did the very same thing. They'd be given three ha’pence each: a ha’penny for the bus there, a a ha’penny for the collection, and a ha’penny for the bus home — and one Sunday they decided to spend the money somewhere nearby instead of going to Sunday School. Ironically, this was the only time that their mother decided to go to the Sunday School to collect them! They were sent to bed for the rest of the day as a punishment.
 3. Timmy—or Timothy George Porter Leech, as he quite early on revealed his full name to be—was a tall, thin—almost spindly—boy with very short dark hair, a clear, slightly olive complexion, and a quite large, rounded nose. He wore thick glasses, which magnified his dark blue eyes. He tended to squeal when he laughed, which earned him the appellation “Horsey” from our Steve.

 4. So, Timothy Leech started coming round to our house. We didn’t use to go round to his house much; Timmy was far more eager to be our friend than we were to be his, so he naturally used to call on us most of the time. Besides, we wouldn’t have been given admittance by his Mum if we had called round; one never got into Leech’s house. Even Timmy had to perform a sort of ritual to get in the house: at the back porch he had to take his shoes off and inspect them to make sure they were clean, then he would knock on the back door, which would then be unlocked by his Mum, and finally he would be allowed in. We only saw his Mum on these sort of brief occasions. A small slim woman with black hair and dark (Indian?) features, she didn’t have a very well-developed figure; which led our Steve to comment that, as a baby, “Timothy must have been greedy!”
To 1961
 5. Although Leech used to call round to see both our Steve and me, there were times when he and I would play alone together. We might then go for a walk down New Lane and do some train-spotting
[2] from the level crossing there, or explore the fields and hedgerows, or play around the wooden bridge that was there spanning the roadside drainage dyke, or climb a tree (although it must have been a low tree if I climbed it; I wasn’t at all daring or adventurous. And it must have been a clean tree, too, because Timmy was terrified of getting dirty).
[2] Train-spotting: See Note [5], below. Compare The Emeralds, Mallards, Broadswords and Hellfires Club: Leech’s proposed “Anchors”.

 Leech’s own solitary wanderings must have taken him quite far afield around Thornton. For example, he once led me to a “secret hideout” that he knew, off the Bispham lane and away beyond the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance at Norcross. After entering a field to the left of the lane and surmounting a low rise in the ground, we came upon the spot: two ponds, a large one and a smaller one, with small trees dotted around them. It was a lonely place. I was a bit scared that the farmer might come and chase us away, but Leech pooh-poohed the idea. And so we played there.

“Two ponds”…

…gone now, alas!
(1960’s aerial photo and present-day map taken from
Lancashire County Council Maps and Related Information Online)
 6. Timmy used to be dressed in very light-coloured clothes—light khaki shorts, cream-coloured tee shirt—and would be terrified if he had to go home with so much as a spot of dirt on them. As the time approached for him to go home he would look himself over and become more and more panicky, moaning as he saw first one and then another spot. He might even burst into tears till my Mum took pity on him and tried to clean him up.

 7. My Mum and Dad didn’t like Timmy; he was always breaking our things. And he would start to cry if he wasn’t getting his own way, if we weren’t doing what he wanted to do. The heavy garden roller ended up in the pond in the back garden, too, while he was there. Timmy was very excitable; he would leap and jump around the back garden, filling the air with his loud, high-pitched “Heeeeeee! Heeeeeee! Heeeeeee!” laugh. Perhaps it was because he was so repressed at home that he went mad when he was in other people’s homes. At such times he would be apt to forget that he was holding, perhaps, a rather fragile toy of mine, which might then just “come apart in his hand”. Our toy stocks threatened to be seriously depleted in this way. I particularly remember a favourite plastic boat,
[3] which I liked to sail on the little pond in our back garden, being dashed to pieces by Leech on the concrete path. Such outcomes of Timmy’s excitable behaviour upset me a great deal, and tended to cut short his visits to our house.
 “Aw, Mum, look what he’s done!”
 “You get off home, Timothy Leech! Go and break your own toys!”
 They contributed to his eventual ban from the premises.
[3] The plastic boat was, in my private imagination, Jonah’s boat. (We met Jonah in the story Class 4.)
 8. As well as being noisy and destructive, Leech also had a penchant for obscene rhymes. I can’t remember if—
Lady of Spain, I adore you;
Take off your clothes, I’ll explore you—
is to be attributed to him. Certainly, the following is:
All the girls of Spain
Do their shitting in the rain,
Do their wee
In the sea,
And their fart
In the treacle tart.
(This was first sung to us by Leech in our back yard under the clothes lines near the back of the house. It was his solution to the problem of rendering the refrain obscene. We had been toying with the obvious connection between passing water and the rain; Leech, however, ignored this and came up with the rhyme we have here.)
 Then, there was a popular song at that time (March to April 1958) which had lines which went like this:
Never in a hundred,
Never in a thousand,
Never in a million years.
And Leech changed the words, rather witlessly, to:
Never in a stink muck,
Never in a fat muck,
Never in a muck muck years.
(The same location as that of the previous song springs to mind.)
Then there was the time when we were standing in the small alcove near the front door as Timmy was about to go home, and Timmy sang us his adaptation of “Popeye The Sailor Man”. The original, which appeared on Popeye cartoons, sung by Popeye for example after defeating his arch-enemy Bluto, was:
I’m Popeye the Sailor Man,
I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.
I’m strong to the finish
’Cause I eats me spinach—
I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.
Of course, such a rhyme was open to abuse and alteration by us kids. But Leech excelled everyone:
I’m Popeye the Sailor Man;
I live in a pot of jam.
The jam was so sticky
It stuck to my dicky—
I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.
(It is probably unnecessary to state that a “dicky” in this context is not a detachable shirt front!) I can’t remember if my Mum (who, on her own admission, used sometimes to hover round and spy on our conversations) promptly and summarily ejected Timmy from the premises, or whether we were severely taken to task after he had gone. But I remember Timmy’s performance of his composition arousing parental wrath.
[4] Never in a hundred etc. years: These lines come from a popular song sung by Jimmie Rodgers called “Oh Oh I’m Falling in Love Again”, which hit the British record sales charts on 28 March 1958 and remained in the charts for 6 weeks. Hence the approximation “Perhaps 1957” given at the start of this story for the date of meeting Leech.

Around 1961[5]
 9. So, my parents had a lot to put up with in Leech. They were the ones who had to suffer the annoyance of him screeching in the back garden, who had to console me when a favourite plaything had become smashed, who had to contend with his tendency to obscenity, and to tolerate his tall stories or even bare-faced lies. Eventually he just became too much, their patience ran out, and the result was—he was banned from our house.

[5] Around 1961: I have in my possession “The Observer’s Book of Railway Locomotives of Britain”, 1960 Edition, and in the back are some train-spotting notes, some of which are dated “10th May” and others “1st Aug 1961”. This gives a convenient date to draw this part of the story of Leech to a close.

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