You can take the boy out of Yarmouth, but it’s always home
BEING veteran expatriates living for more than half a century thousands of miles from their old home town has not diminished Danny and Marjorie Daniels’ love for Great Yarmouth.
Nostalgia is a potent force, and their memories of the borough from their younger days – coupled with their interest in its 2010 news – are stimulated by a combination of weekly logging-on to the Great Yarmouth Mercury website and occasional visits “home”, as they still term it.
Their most recent return to the borough from Canada was a sad occasion, for they were here in August for the funeral of Marjorie’s sister, Betty Manship (nee Gillings). The sisters were the daughters of an engine driver and his wife who lived in Lime Kiln Walk, off North Quay.
Last month I wrote about Danny’s remarkable athleticism for, despite being 80 – and having open-heart surgery for a quadruple bypass and aortic valve replacement in 2005 - he is still competing with formidable success in marathons and multi-discipline events like pentathlons and decathlons, often far beyond British Columbia where they live, and sometimes in inhospitable conditions.
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Marjorie is no slouch herself, for she espoused athletics as a late starter and achieved many victories.
The couple have just returned to British Columbia after a walking holiday in Devon, ending with attending concerts in London.
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It cannot be said that as very senior citizens, they have become set in their ways, contemplating settling for armchairs and slippers, for only nine years ago they embarked on a new venture requiring stamina and agility: tap-dancing classes!
Bearing in mind their many attributes, including physical fitness, determination, self-confidence, eagerness and enthusiasm to acquire new skills, perhaps they sometimes wonder – in the few idle moments they seem to have – about “what might have been” had they embarked on tap-dancing in their younger days. Could they have achieved international fame akin to the silver screen’s acknowledged stars like Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Ann Miller?
That’s all wishful thinking on my part, of course, but it is a fact that Danny and Marjorie Daniels have derived enormous pleasure from their latest challenge and continue to put on their tap shoes regularly.
“The memories you resurface through your Porthole are very vivid ones, like those about Gorleston swimming pool,” Danny tells me, referring to a July column they read on the internet about swimmers’ hair mysteriously turning green after a heating system was installed at the long-lamented open-air facility in 1971.
“Marjorie and I spent many happy summer days there although we were not subject to the blue/green hair experience – at least, not in that pool. We did, however, suffer a similar affliction in the swimming pool at the National Aviation Training Centre in Northern Nigeria when I was Dean of the Educational Administration and Graduate Studies Faculty at the Amadu Bello University there from 1973-75.
“The pool attendant had apparently added too much copper sulphate, or similar ‘blueing’ agent, to the water, and many of the fair-haired ‘baturi’, including our two children and myself, wound up with brilliant toppings which, like some of those mentioned in your story, then broke off, making us like blue/green coconuts!”
Danny says my June features based on the autobiography of former Yarmouth youth mayor and youth officer Bill Fortescue were similarly memory-evoking; by coincidence, Marjorie’s late sister Betty was also a youth mayor and was in the photograph I published of Bill and other youth council members on Scroby Sands.
In his book, Bill recalled his involvement in the 1953 flood – and he lived on Gordon Road in Southtown next to Marjorie and Betty’s Grandmother Gillings who, says Danny, “was desolated when the flood waters caused her piano to be toppled over, never to be playable again!”.
Danny continues: “Although we had left Yarmouth before the 1953 floods and were away as evacuees in Retford during the 1943 inundations, I remember that my sister, Barbara, then a corporal in the WAAF, came home on leave that wartime night.
“We were living on Lichfield Road and, having arrived by late train from Norwich to Vauxhall about 1am, she walked into the water as she turned on to Station Road from Southtown Road. By the time she reached our house, just beyond the old Co-op store, and before you reached Cook’s Dairy, she was nearly knee deep.
“When she knocked on the door at 127, she told my father: ‘Be careful how you open the door; there’s a lot of water out here!’ To which he replied: ‘There’s a bloody lot in here, too, and it’s cold!’
“He’d stepped into it coming down the stairs in the dark – the electricity had gone off, of course – and our little dog, in all the excitement, had jumped off his pile of warm clothes on the couch, pushing them into the flood water. He, like Queen Victoria, was not amused!”
The April 1943 floods, the worst for 25 years, were the result of severe gales, and Cobholm and Southtown suffered badly.
When I went to Yarmouth Grammar School just after the war, Danny was a senior, and also an NCO in its Army Cadet Force. Because of that involvement, he was asked to give some drill instruction to the Yarmouth Girl’s Training Corps.
“What more could a 17-year-old ask for?” he writes. “As a result, I was asked to take part in their Christmas pantomime. Cinderella, as one of the Ugly Sisters in which Marjorie was Cinderella – and the rest is history!”
Also, he notes another “one simple thing leading to another” scenario: because his Army Cadet Force membership resulted in physical instructor training at Aldershot. He was asked by grammar school headmaster Alan Palmer to take some of the PT classes because of the absence through illness of the regular teacher, Ken Senior.
This prompted him to think of a career as a physical education teacher and, after graduating from college and doing a third year studying PE, he began teaching but emigrated to Canada with Marjorie in 1957, eventually specialising in educational administration.
Danny tells me: “So, as you can see, your column helps to reinforce the paraphrased adage that ‘You can take the boy out of Yarmouth, but you can’t take Yarmouth out of the boy!’”