Parish Clerks Network

The Singleton Family

Baden Singleton (1925-)


The simple pleasures of boyhood

TODAY the swish of the cane is never heard in schoolrooms but when Baden Singleton went to school it was all too familiar a sound.

He was born 80 years ago and has penned his own memories of growing up in Povington, which lies between Wareham and East Lulworth.

He was born at French's Lane in Lytchett Minster and his dad had had a shoe repair business in Rossmore, but the family moved to Povington when he was still small.

At first they lived in the Black Cottage but soon moved to the Pinetree Cottage in the hamlet, a house that had just four rooms, in one of which his dad would carry out shoe repairs.

"The well for our water was in one corner of the field and we had to carry the water in buckets some 500 or 600 yards," he recalled. "Needless to say we never wasted any water."

Like in so many houses of the day, the toilet was outside the house, "a bucket type that had to be emptied by hand".

Indeed those days seem very different from life today when children find entertainment on the TV or computer screen.

"Our playground was the Povington Heath or the fields when the farmer was not looking," said Baden, who now lives in Waterlooville.

"During the summer school holidays most of our time was spent on the beach at Worbarrow Bay or Arish Mell Gap. Worbarrow Bay was about an hour-and-a-half's walk if we did not play too much on the way and usually we found some sort of game to make the journey seem a bit shorter.

"The countryside in those days, without the use of chemicals, provided quite a lot of things that we youngsters could eat - wild strawberry, blackberry, edible chestnut, beechnut apples to scrump, ripe or not, several green leaves, both sweet and sour.

"Swede nicked from a field was always tasty."

Baden's father, who had been gassed when fighting in the First World War, died when he was just seven, but he writes of how he had to be taken to the poor man's institute for treatment ("commonly known as the workhouse".)

"The sight of that cold, gaunt building standing on the west wall at Wareham always gave me a shiver."

After his father died, Baden and his brother had responsibility for looking after the family's three goats.

From the age of five Baden went to school at East Lulworth, two-and-a-half miles away - a long walk... though sometimes seven or eight youngsters would cadge a lift with the postman's van.

"Punishment was carried out by the headmistress, Miss Yarnitsky. Female she might have been but she had a very strong downward stroke with the cane," Baden said. "When a caning was due one of us boys had to go out into the hedge to cut a hazel stick with our penknife which we always had with us, of course."

At home, any punishment needed was meted out by Baden's mother.

"Sometimes a slap with the hand was needed or one was deprived of something the other children had.

"For more serious defaults, such as being caught scrumping our neighbours' apples, a spell in bed was the punishment. Once I was caught at this and spent a week of the summer holidays confined to the bedroom."

Games at school were simple affairs.

"We would play marbles, jacks, races with Dinky cars and collecting and swapping cigarette cards," he reminisced.

For a prank, they would go into the ash pit where the ashes from the stoves and other rubbish was deposited.

"The basis of the game was to let two boys go into the ash pit and throw about the ashes to make a fair old gug," Baden writes.

"Another boy would gather a group outside then, while their attention was directed elsewhere, a boy was grabbed and pushed into the ash pit and the door closed and held for about five minutes.

"I was caught on this and, believe me, it was not at all pleasant."

Since those dim and distant days so many things today have changed and youngsters today would find it hard to believe what life in Purbeck used to be like.

Like Baden's memories of visiting his grandfather's home in Albert Road, Parkstone. "My memory of that house was a flush toilet. I had never seen one of those before. I remember the great fascination it had for me just to pull the chain."

And nowadays people think themselves hard done by if their internet connection isn't broadband.