Jan and I used to spend quite a number of weekends with Ron, who we both loved dearly. Ron was in fact Jan’s uncle, her own father, Ted, had died some years before, and as sometimes happens in close families – Ron and Jan’s Mum Pat who had known each other all of their adult lives, began courting and eventually married. We both used to visit Ron and Pat on a regular basis, and just loved their ideal bungalow that Ron and Pat had built into a truly beautiful home. Sadly after nearly twenty years of marriage, Pat was diagnosed with lung cancer and after a relatively short period of time died.
Ron was devastated of course and so rather than let Ron rattle about in that house of memories by himself Jan and I, as well as Jan’s sister and her husband used to visit Ron each every other weekend. At Christmas and other special times of the year sometimes all four of us would make a joint visit, to keep him company. He was such a very nice gentle-man in every sense of the word.
Our usual routine was to travel down to Ron’s house in Sussex on the Friday afternoon and return home on the Sunday. Rather than stay in his house all week without any company, Ron managed to visit his local country pub “The Onslow Arms” (a four hundred year old hostelry) that afforded him friendship and company from both the staff and the other customers, who also liked Ron as a man who had had a full life with many experiences. The Onslow served a decent meal and Ron would usually book a table for the three of us when we visited him. He always got upset when I settled the bill before he could; and used to tell me not to pay cash as he had a plastic card that he could pass over the bar and sign a gadget put in front of him. “It isn’t proper money” he used to say.
After a few pints and a nice meal one Saturday night we got back to Ron’s house, I put a match to the open log fire that I had set earlier in the afternoon and we just relaxed into his old settee and armchairs and chatted as usual. This particular evening Jan said “Ron, I know you have a million stories about when and where you grew up, so I would like to jot some notes down, while you talk, would that be OK”?
The following are our notes of Ron Loughlin’s life.
“In 1939 it was a pretty scary time for me and my family as we all knew the horror stories of the 1st world war and then just twenty-one years later the world was plunging into another war. My older brother Ted was already in the army but me, John and Ernie (Albert our youngest brother was still too young to go with us) it was decided that children from London were to be evacuated because of the expected bombing. The preparations to send the three of us away, were more confusing than frightening for me as, although I was aged twelve, I had no idea of what to expect. With our cardboard suitcases and labels round our necks we were packed off by train to a place called ‘West Mersea’ a small seaside town on the east coast. I don’t remember much about that time except the temporary school we were expected to attend was actually set up on the beach, but like many other coastal places, there was frantic activity to build defences along the whole stretch to repel and defend any intended invasion”.
“This, our first evacuation only lasted two or three months and I later learned the grown-ups back home in London were calling this time ‘the phony war’ and we soon found ourselves packed off back home again”.
“Later, in 1940 we three boys were sent away again up to the south west of England to the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. Before we set off that day, Mum had taken me to one side and said to me ‘Ron, you’re the eldest and you must try to keep all three of you together if you can!’ I felt so important and proud to have her trust and was determined to follow her instruction, when we sat in that old Village, much later that day. The hall smelt of old clothes, shoes and just a whiff of baked cakes. We sat on wooden fold down chairs that creaked as we wriggled the time away waiting for people who might come to collect us. With the huge clock ticking its ponderous clanking hour on hour, on the grey lime-washed walls – our future away did not bode well. Even the three village children volunteers looking after us were looking to be getting quite anxious”.
“Later, much later that evening/night there were only us and another family left in the hall (the Cousins, and ourselves, the Laughlin’s). As midnight approached, a Mr Marfall and Mr Jones came into the hall. Both arrived after spending their evening in the pub. In their jolly, merry, state they took both us and the Cousin children home to their wives, the Cousin’s to Mrs Jones and us three to Mrs Marfall. They then had to find beds and bedding to accommodate us all”.