Paying A Penny To Repair Bully (10 October 1975)
Some recent notes in this column have stirred memories and people have kindly got in touch with me to tell me so.
One is Mr Wal Pacey, of Bletchley, who was reminded of the celebrations held at Tolpuddle, in 1934, the hundredth anniversary of the Martyrs’ transportation to Australia.
In the decades since the war Wal has been known as a tennis player. He won the Bucks singles championship in the early 1950s. And he still plays regularly.
But before the war he was also a keen racing cyclist. A feature of the Tolpuddle celebrations were the cycling events. Wal competed in the 25-mile road race and won the cup. Although that was 41 years ago and he was then aged 20, he still treasures that trophy.
Other local riders took part in the competitions. One was Dick Goodman, killed this year while out cycling. He won a cup in a track event. Another was Dick’s long-time buddy, Charlie Cole. He too won a track cup.
My article on children’s games of yesteryear has evoked a long and interesting letter from a lady who now lives at Luton Hoo, but who says she had a very happy childhood in Bletchley.
“I suppose I was very lucky, as I was an only child and also an only grandchild until I reached the age of 14½ years. So you can imagine that I had many more toys than children from large families,” she says.
I would say that she probably missed a lot of family fun, too.
However, regarding my reference to whip-and-top, she tells me that in Bletchley the short, fat tops were known as “window flyers.” She doesn’t know why. But the taller, thinner ones were called “carrots,” obviously from their shape. They could be bought for a halfpenny and father usually made the whip – either from a leather bootlace or from a piece of string, knotted at the tip to prevent it from fraying.
Then she writes about hoops, which I was going to mention in my article when I ran out of space. As she says, there were loosely-laminated wooden hoops of various sizes for girls and solid iron ones for boys.
The girls batted their hoops along with a short stick. Some of the older girls’ hoops were so large they could skip with them. They were usually bought at Collins’ in Aylesbury Street, or Nash’s in Bletchley Road (Queensway).
Boys’ hoops were made by the blacksmith, whenever he had time and suitable material on hand. He also made iron hooks to run them with. I remember them well.
All hoops, boys’ and girls’ were known as “bullies” in our northern village, and the boys’ hoops were known as “bully hooks.”
What fun we had with them. What collisions, deliberate and otherwise! What races round the houses, the only other traffic likely to be met being the occasional horse and cart and the odd bicycle. Such antics today would be suicidal.
When your iron bully broke you had to wait until Saturday for your Saturday penny. Then you took bully and penny to the blacksmith. Usually you had an interesting wait while the blacksmith shod a horse – ah, the smell of burning hooves – or made the sparks fly on some other job.
Then he shoved the broken ends of your bully into the glowing forge, made them white hot, pulled them out, knocked them together on the anvil, plunged the bully into a water trough, pulled it out mended and then held out his hand for your penny. No sweets that week.
Bullies tended to clutter cottage rooms. So fathers knocked a large nail into the outside wall, where the bullies were hung. You could tell how many children there were in the house apart from “babies” – by the number of bullies hangng outside, and also how many of each sex. Nobody would interfere with them.
The Luton Hoo lady also refers to hop-scotch, hide-and-seek, “The farmer wants a wife,” “Statues” and other games which used to be popular.
I would have mentioned hop-scotch but for the fact that fairly recently I saw the game being played on the pavement by some Bletchley children. They were using a ball, but I remember it being played with a flattish stone which was nudged from square to square with the foot at the same time as the hop – a quite difficult procedure.
In the Luton lady’s opinion, today’s children are made to grow up much too quickly and therefore miss a lot of the happiness that childhood should give. Many will echo that.
Space Is running out again. But I must mention a Bow Brickhill man who used to live in Bletchley and who remembers the old Fenny Rovers team I mentioned in one article. He was a boy at the time, but he recalls Frank and Harry Kilsby, the Perrys and other stalwarts.
He also agrees with that other old-timer I wrote about who told me that Cecil Hands was the finest inside forward seen in Bletchley. He hopes he is still “clogging” and so do I. Mr Hands was Bletchley town soccer club’s first post-war chairman, which was when I first knew him.