Clearing the decks with readers' gems
PUBLISHED: 21:28 30 December 2015 | UPDATED: 21:28 30 December 2015
ANOTHER new year, an appropriate time to put the past behind and make resolutions for the future. In my case, it seems an ideal opportunity to embark on one of my occasional efforts to "clear the decks" and deal with some items received perhaps years ago but, to my shame, have never resurfaced to be given my full attention.
Some may have been published long ago but forgotten by me. My apologies go to any readers whose contributions have lain dormant for an interminable time in a drawer, filing cabinet or heap of assorted papers.. In some cases, the identity of the sender is unknown, having been separated from the actual item. Some feed-back or new ideas have arrived anonymously.
In no particular order, today’s first is a picture postcard of a Yarmouth pulling-and-sailing lifeboat on its launching trolley, sent as a birthday card in 1907 from Lowestoft to an addressee in nearby Carlton Colville. Possibly it was the 12-oar John Burch (1892-1912), its former boathouse on what is today Yarmouth’s Golden Mile.
The picture came from Diss resident Roy Cook, who added two years to his age of 13 so he could enlist in the Royal Navy at 15 – a similar untruth to that of George Carr, of Yarmouth, featured in this column recently, who joined the Army and fought in the infamous Gallipoli campaign in the First World War. Later, Roy was a signalman at various Coastguard stations along the Norfolk coast.
Next, a page of miscellaneous snippets from an unknown book including: “The famous clown Whimsical Walker lived on Quay Road next to the Belle Vue (public house) where he ran a shooting range called Peggotty’s Hut when he was free from circus engagements. He was 31 years in pantomime, being the oldest working clown in the world.
“He performed before Queen Victoria in 1886 and Princess Elizabeth in 1933. He devoted his time to shrimping and kept a number of cats. An old lady was airing his linen when it caught fire but (lifeboat) Cox’n Fleming at the look-out next door put out the fire before the fire brigade arrived.”
Palmer’s Folly on Riverside Road? “It was so-called because he placed the sundial on the north wall! He was known to save his farthings to buy bricks.”
The page includes an explanation of the origin of the derogatory description of Gorleston men as “Jew Killers”, telling readers that a rich Jew anxious to land at Gorleston signalled for a beach boat to ferry him ashore. The beachmen, noticing how anxious he was to safeguard the chest he was carrying, killed him with the boat’s tiller and rifled the chest.
With the proceeds they built themselves cottages on Cliff Hill and lived in style, but “suspicions were aroused and the man who committed the murder was executed. From then on Gorleston men were known as ‘Jew killers.’”
The history of the Admiral Duncan pump below the White Lion to Beach Road steps is also recorded on this page.
Possibly in 1984, retired teacher Walter Nicholson – of Brett Avenue, Gorleston - brought in a picture of a three horse-drawn charabancs laden with passengers he thought was taken in Gorleston High Street because “I recognised the wall of the St Andrew’s Hall.” As there are tramlines in the road, the location might well have been the High Street where the Wilkinson precinct is now..
The passengers all look to be men, reinforcing his belief that it was an annual outing for employees of Fellows Dock on Southtown Road. The photograph had been passed down to him by his uncle, an employee at riverside neighbour Crabtree engineering.
Attached to that old picture was another, a single similar horse-drawn charabanc outside the Tramway Hotel and pleasure gardens in Gorleston town centre. The passengers were men and women, with some lads standing against the ladder at the rear. On the reverse is the date 1899.
That hostelry was blitzed in 1941 with several fatalities, reopening in temporary premises replaced by a new building in 1957. The Tramway still trades on the site today.
During my delving I found a typed document about Mrs Annie Baker, “one of the longest living residents in Yarmouth”...but this was Yarmouth, Massachusetts, where she had lived since 1905. That was possibly to follow up columns exploring the five Yarmouths on both sides of the North Atlantic: us, that on the Isle of Wight, plus those in Massachusetts and Maine in the United States and another Yarmouth in Nova Scotia, Canada, all three of which had been visited by Michael Carttiss, Yarmouth’s MP from 1983 to 1997.
In 1977 Charles Biron and his wife came here to convey official greetings from that trio of transatlantic Yarmouths, passing them to our mayor and mayoress, Harry Miller and Cora Batley. And in 1953 the citizens of Yarmouth in Maine saw a cinema newsreel of the 1953 floods that caused death and havoc here in Yarmouth and sent us a message hoping everything was all right.
Those Yarmouths across the “pond” were founded by settlers from hereabouts.
As for Annie Baker, her daughter once worked for President Kennedy’s grandfather and was married to “a secret service officer who was murdered in the Thirties during the ‘rum-running’ off Cape Cod during the Prohibition.”
The dynasty was founded by William Nickerson, a Norwich weaver, “who with 3000 other small craftsmen was driven out of Norfolk by Bishop Wren, of Norwich, in the persecution of non-conformists in 1637.” The 33-year-old, with his wife and four children, plus his in-laws, sailed for Boston from our Yarmouth in 1637 on the John & Dorothy, their fellow passengers including 18-year-old Samuel Lincoln, an ancestor of Abraham Lincoln.
The voyage from Norfolk took two months, and they moved from Salem to Yarmouth four years later, adding five more children to their family. He upset the authorities by buying land from an Indian chief without official consent.
I must have another look to see what other delights remain hidden in my chaotic files?