Your memories astonish and amaze

MAINWELL! FANCY SEEING YOU HERE! An astonished Peggotty's spotted his first car parked outside the A

MAINWELL! FANCY SEEING YOU HERE! An astonished Peggotty's spotted his first car parked outside the Albion public house in Gorleston many years after he last saw it.Picture: SUBMITTED - Credit: Archant

My very first car, a company vehicle, was an unexpected subject in a batch of feed-back from recent columns – a surprise because the message was primarily about old gramophone records!

THE YARMOUTH CONNECTION: Mayoress Cora Batley and Mayor Harry Miller look on as Mrs Nora Biron, visi

THE YARMOUTH CONNECTION: Mayoress Cora Batley and Mayor Harry Miller look on as Mrs Nora Biron, visiting from Yarmouth, Canada, signs the guest book in our Town Hall in 1978.Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY - Credit: Archant

I mentioned 78rpm discs on Woolworth’s own label but could not recall the long-gone chain store’s Great Yarmouth and Gorleston branches stocking them. Oh yes they did, I am assured by Chris Collins, of Albemarle Road, Gorleston.

She writes: “My mother had quite a few own-brand records bought from Woolworth’s in Yarmouth. The label was Embassy and was a maroon colour. One of the artists was Denny Dennis. They were cheaper than the famous label records but not as good?”

Ah, yes, Embassy! Now I remember! As for Denny Dennis, he was a regular radio crooner with well-known dance bands in the 1930-1950s but when the big bands’ popularity declined, he recorded cover versions on that budget Embassy label.

Chris reminded me: “My husband John and I have corresponded with you before, about your Austin A30 (HCL191). It was also my husband’s old car, and you printed the story. Memories are so precious - you should start a Mercury club for us oldies to share them!”

That was ten years ago, after I reported spotting that little black A30 in the late Sixties on the Albion public house car park beside Lowestoft Road in Gorleston. I had driven it during my stints in our Thetford and North Norfolk offices.

Then, joy of joys, the company traded in “my” A30 in Norwich for a swish new 1960 Ford Anglia with the revolutionary forward sloping rear window, its styling and Shark Blue body with cream above the waistline turning heads in its early days.

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I never knew the A30’s fate until I espied it in Gorleston.

Chris and John said that as the Albion was their local, they often left the A30 there and walked home. But in 1969, while they were in the Albion seeing in the New Year, their “A-Squirty” (as they dubbed it) was stolen from outside their home, no daunting task for the thief because they left the keys in the ignition but only a little fuel in the tank.

It was recovered unharmed in Norwich, but with more petrol in the tank than there had been when they left it outside their home! Eventually the couple scrapped their A30.

Last month veteran Yarmouth local politician Cora Batley died, aged 92. She was Yarmouth’s Mayor in 1972, council chairman twice in the Nineties after her ruling Labour group had spitefully suspended the mayoralty, became the first woman to receive the Freedom of the Borough, and served on many public bodies.

Uniquely, if I recall correctly, she actually became Mayoress in 1977 as official consort to her councillor colleague Harry Miller, a bachelor, when he was elected Mayor. Nobody else has ever been both our Mayor and Mayoress.

Items about whales in this column were launched by one about the famous Gorleston 30ft rorqual that swam into our river in 1891, became trapped, was killed by boatmen, preserved, and for ages went on public exhibition.

An eye-witness of that sad saga was the minister at the United Methodist Free Church in Gorleston High Street, the Rev Albert Mahomet, who included it in his autobiography, From Street Arab to Pastor. The son of an Indian tinker who emigrated to Britain, the minister also helped to raise money for dependants of the four Gorleston lifeboatmen who perished when the Refuge capsized in 1888.

Several decades later, a hermit died in the Lincolnshire fens, but before the local council burned down his old shack a local clergyman, the Rev Jack Elliot, rummaged through the deceased’s meagre possessions, retrieving the old yellowing From Street Arab to Pastor. Riffling through it, he was surprised to read the author’s eye-witness account of the Gorleston whale incident.

Jack Elliott relayed the anecdote to his brother, Frank, a senior member of the Lowestoft Road Methodist Church in Gorleston!

In Canada, ex-Norfolk resident John D Reid read my on-line column about this Mercury publishing a report in August 1891 of the astonishing – and, perhaps, fanciful – epic about James Bartley, the seaman swallowed by a whale but days later found still alive in its stomach when it was harpooned and cut up off the Falkland Islands. We printed the story although there was no apparent local involvement.

John informs me that despite the on-line encyclopaedia article on Bartley and the report in that 1891 Mercury, “there are prior mentions. The British Newspaper Archive has several, the earliest being a brief mention in the Hull Daily Mail of 31 July 1881.

“The website reveals a first US mention in the Cinncinatti Enquirer of 29 June 1891.” John has sent me the page; the “modern Jonah” account is almost word for word the same as the Mercury’s.

The mystery deepens...

We also looked at old railway bridges made redundant by the withdrawal of the services from Yarmouth South Town to Beccles and Lowestoft. From Canada, ex-Yarmouthian Danny Daniels writes: “I remember many of the railway bridges, two in particular. One was about 150 yards from my Nana’s house in Bradwell, now long gone.

“It, and Uncle Charlie’s house and barns next door, was on the road going away from the village school and Post Office, on the way to Belton and/or Burgh Castle. I do recall, on a visit some years ago, that part of the old flint stone wall was still built into the roadside there.

“The other railway bridge I most fondly remember was the footbridge I used to take to cross over the rail line on my hikes out to picnic at the Burgh Castle ruins. I’d go from the top end of Lichfield Road, turn right along Gordon Road, past the store on the corner and then follow the footpath past the allotments and out over the marshes.

“It led to the footbridge and then on to join the road through the village to the ruins. Sitting up on the castle walls, looking out over Breydon Water while eating my cheese-and-tomato sandwiches, is a very fond memory.