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Transcript TitleWhiting, Bert and Joan (O2002.6)
IntervieweeBert and Joan Whiting (BW and JW)
InterviewerJean Riddell (Purkis) (JR) and Eddie Roche (ER)
Transcriber byJean Riddell (Purkis)


Hertford Oral History Group

Recording no: O2002.6

Interviewee: Bert and Joan Whiting (BW and JW)

Date: 15th February 2002

Venue: 68 Burnett Square, Sele Farm, Hertford

Interviewer: Jean Riddell (JR) and Eddie Roche (ER)

Transcriber: Jean Riddell (Purkis)

Typed by: Freda Joshua

************** unclear recording

[discussion] untranscribed material

italics editor’s notes

JR: We’re here to talk about lots of things, Eddie do you want to start?

ER: What I want to ask Bert is, when I was a young lad, there was a family of Whitings who kept the Unicorn

BW: That’s my father and grandfather. My grandfather and his wife and two sons, Ernie and George, and Aunt Freda and Aunt Liz – there was four altogether

ER: I can remember my father when I was a little lad during the war, when my grandparents lived in The Folly and my grandfather, he said, ‘we’ll go round to Freddy Whiting’s, who was Nudger?

BW: His son.

ER: And in the forties, who would have been running it? Nudger would be running it then would he?

BW: My grandfather was still there during the war and after the war for a while. He was the oldest publican in Hertford when he died.

ER: So Fred Whiting was your grandfather. And was it one of your family who married Sister Pont?

BW: Well, that was Nudger who married Sister Pont.

ER: There was Sister Pont and Sister Major, they used to call in my grandparents’ house. I remember my father saying Nudger was going to marry Sister Pont.

BW: Nudger was a bachelor for years, he never had the idea of getting married.

ER: They were two mature people, weren’t they?

BW: They came and lived up here funnily enough. They lived in Bentley Road until they died. Nudger died first.

JW: I’m not sure that Martha’s still alive.

BW: She was a district nurse, used to go around on an old sit-up-and-beg bike.

JR: Is she still alive?

JW: I’m not sure – she went into, the car park…

BW: Bircherley Green.

JW: That’s where she was, but whether she has died…

JR: Did she take her husband’s name, Whiting?

BW: Yes, she did.

JR: So she was Nurse Whiting after that?

ER: ‘Cos as kids we just knew her as Sister Pont. That’s how they were addressed by everybody, ‘cos I was 6 or 7 then.

BW: Used to go round the schools with a couple of skewers, looking for nits.

ER: Yes, so Bert Whiting is a Hertford man, how about Jean?

JW: Well, I was born in Ware but I came to Bengeo when I was 18 months old.

ER: When did you get married?

JW: Bengeo Church in September of ’48.

BW: We’ve been married 50 years now. I was born in The Folly and sadly me mother died soon after I was born and I was to and fro. Me father took me to the pub, then I was pushed away somewhere else, but eventually then I was adopted by my mother’s best friend, Mrs Bean. You know Teddy Bean?

ER: I know the name.

BW: And I was adopted by her and I lived at No 1 Riverside until I was married to Joan.

ER: That’s the first house next door to the Barge.

BW: Me grandparents, me mother’s side, lived next door too, Mr and Mrs Wakerall, your Dad’ll know them. Many a time I’ve gone down the allotments, there’s the pair of them, they weren’t doing any gardening, they were talking.

ER: My granddad used to keep a set of fishing rods underneath his bean poles there, and he’d say to grandmother, ‘I’m just going down the allotment.’

BW: And he’d be round the Wide Waters!

ER: That’s right.

BW: Grandad’s tricks. He never sat down, he always crouched.

JR: It’s funny because I had a conversation with somebody at the weekend about this crouching. It’s very good for you indeed, much better than sitting, so he knew a thing or two maybe.

BW: Well, he was a tall man.

ER: When they laid him out he was well over 6 foot, like all the Roches, he walked with a stoop.

BW: And your grandmum, bless her heart, a little short lady. She always wore a cap – I never remember seeing her in The Folly without she got a cap.

JR: A cap?

BW: Just an ordinary cap.

JR: A peaked cap, a man’s cap?

BW: Yes.

ER: She was always good with the kids. She was house-bound by the time I knew her. So you were adopted but you went to school in Hertford to…?

BW: Cowbridge School to start with, Eddie, behind the Congregational Church. Miss Bradbeer was Headmistress, Miss Stocks, Miss Amos, Miss Kiddill, they were teachers there, then when you got to 9 or 19 you went to Cowper School.

ER: And in the 1920’s.

BW: You were 10 when you went to, about (19)35?

JR: So you were born about 1925, were you?

BW: Yes.

JR: So was Len Green your teacher there?

BW: I’ve got some photographs in there. Yes, Len Green, Mr Stalley was Headmaster. You went into Mr Green’s first, 1b, then you went into 2b, Mr Booker, well known to all our boys as dear old Charlie Booker. And then war broke out 1939 and the bombing started and I think they got a bit worried about the old school and we all had to move out and went down to Longmore School then. I finished my time there prior to going to work.

ER: And you were at Cowper School 5 years perhaps? ‘Til you were 15?

BW: No, I left school at 14, so that would be two years at the other school, and then went to work at Addises prior to being called up, because the war was on then.

ER: So you were called up quite young?

BW: 18, yes. I remember coming home from work, going in the door and mum was crying. She said, ‘your call-up papers are here’. I said, ‘well you knew they were coming’. I was all right, I was A1. She said, ‘I know but I don’t know what they are sending you all the way to Gibraltar for. Look at the paper – report to Gibraltar Barracks, Suffolk!’. Poor old mum, she could only see the word Gibraltar! And I went to Lines//lions camp in Bury St Edmunds. There was the Suffolk Barracks and the Suffolk Regiment, then further down the road there was the other big camp built for all the other intakes, and you did your initial 9 weeks training, then you went with the Regiment. I went into the Beds and Herts, then you had a choice when you done your training at Bury St Edmunds of what you wanted to do. So I said I’d like to be an anti-tank gunner. That’s fair enough, so I went down to be ‘anti-tank gunner’.

ER: Was there a reason why you wanted that?

BW: Well, my uncle was a gunner in WW1 so I thought, ‘let’s follow in Uncle’s footsteps’. I’d never seen an anti-tank gun! So anyway, the transfer came through for me to join the Anti-tank section for training with the Beds and Herts until I went abroad. And I went to France, went right through France, not fighting then, of course, Belgium into Holland and I joined up with the 9th Battalion, the Camaronians, Scottish Rifles, they were short of anti-tank gunners.

ER: So you became a Scotsman overnight! Was this in 1939?

BW: No, it was 1940.

ER: So you were really in the war?

BW: Oh yes, I wasn’t in the fighting until I got wounded in 1945, ‘44, Eddie, finally caught up with me in ’44. I got through France and I got to this place in Holland, Helmond, and there was a large empty factory, all the troops were bedded down there, sleep on the floor anyway you could and I got put with a gun with three or four other Jocks, only one Scotsman and all the rest were English. I asked why the Scotsmen were so brave they all got killed, it wasn’t true of course, but that’s where I ended up in the Camaronians.

I was stuck in Holland for a long while because everything came to a standstill and I can remember distinctly at night time we had a patrol on the banks of the river in Holland, spotting any Germans trying to come across. There weren’t no Germans within miles of where we were so we needn’t have bothered, but that was it, you see. But we were out from dusk ‘til dawn, we had tins of cocoa and tins of soup and these were quite unique things, quite big and they had like a wick on it with a gloved hand or handkerchief you pulled this wick up, and no-one told me that thing was so bloomin’ hot.

ER: What was this again?

BW: It was a tin of soup and hot chocolate, like the tins you get now – baked beans – then through the centre of it must have been phosphorous and when you pulled this little thing it lighted it and it went through the can and heated the soup up.

JR: The soup was round a central tube, a bit like a microwave?

BW: You had to put a pair of gloves on to hold it.

ER: At least you were guaranteed that you would have something warm.

[overtalking ER and BW – snow, only a ground sheet and uniform and great coat]

BW: … and pack on your back and a rifle. As it progressed things didn’t move much and we all got issued with snowsuits. They were a little bit better, a bit warmer, then, of course, it started to thaw and things began to move, then we moved towards Germany. There was an entrance to a wood, it was a big archway, we couldn’t get the carrier and the guns through, traffic behind us waiting to come up. The Germans started to shell us, no way we’re going to run away, we couldn’t move back or front, of course, they were dropping everything down, weren’t they. We was always told if you come under shell fire, abandon the carrier because you’d got shells behind you.

Of course, this is what we did. I jumped out, dived for cover, the driver and the corporal were killed instantly and another fellow got a piece (of shrapnel) across his head, the chap who didn’t get out the carrier because he couldn’t get out quick, was a fellow named Dick Quickwood and he stood about 6 foot. He had to fold himself up to get in the carrier, and he couldn’t get out quick enough to take cover, and he didn’t get a scratch.

ER: I saw a gun carrier come down Hertingfordbury Road during the war, didn’t half make a clatter. They were American tanks.

BW: There was two of you in one side, two in the other, the driver and the corporal in charge of the gun. I jumped out, I was wounded, so was the Scotsman.

ER: So you really saw war, the sharp end of it as they’d say nowadays?

BW: Well then it was a question of waiting for someone to come and pick you up and put you on an ambulance and take you back out. They had jeep carriers, two inside and two on top, prayed that nothing was going to happen while I was on top because you couldn’t get off, could you. We went back to the First Aid station and my leg was all strapped up, moved further up the line and finished up at a hospital in France

ER: Was that the end of your war – home and .... ?

BW: Well then you went through a series of going back to these holding places, Brussels and from there sick leave and I went home and the war ended as I was at home.

ER: And did you have to wait long for demobilisation?

BW: Yes, ’46 when I was demobbed, the battalion, of course, wasn’t wanted anymore. It broke up so everybody went their different ways. And I learned to drive whilst I was waiting, which is always handy when you’ve got to get a job, so I learned to drive a 15cwt Ford truck. Well then as the battalion gradually broke down, people were being demobbed and other fellows were being put in other regiments, and the sergeant came into the hut one day and said, ‘Whiting, you’ve done a bit of batman work, haven’t you? I said, ‘Oh yes’. He said, ‘’I’ve got just the job for you for a little while. Wait outside with you kit tomorrow morning and you’ll be picked up’. I thought, ‘this sounds interesting’. In comes this nice big car with two men in it, one went into the office, he came out with the sergeant and he pointed at me, ‘you’re corporal Whiting?’ I said, ‘yes’. He said, ‘you’re coming with me. Put your kit in the boot of the car, we’ll take you to where you’ve got to go’. And then I was in the Intelligence Corps! [this all took place in Germany]

ER: Variety is the spice of life.

BW: Well yes, but only as a driver. Scotsman overnight then the Intelligence Corps. What it was, at the end of the war, trying to locate all the German Nazis. [Bert forgot to say that he had re-joined his battalion before joining the Intelligence Corps. They were first at Kiel then at Bad Hodeslau.] From there, I was taken by these couple of fellows in the lovely car to this beautiful house at Bad Hodeslau, and I thought, ‘this can’t be bad’, and all I had to do was drive the officer-in-charge to different places. Secret sort of stuff, you were sworn to secrecy.

JR: That secrecy, does it last forever?

BW: I’ve got it now. There are things I wouldn’t tell anybody now.

JR: No, but is there a time limit on this secrecy or not, a life-time?

BW: I don’t know. As long as I can remember it I can remember what we were doing [overtalking, ER and BW] We were just told to be quiet about it.

ER: Careless talk costs lives.

BW: You saw enough of that in the war. That’s where I ended up and then, as things gradually got towards demob, that unit broke up and I was in Lubeck then, and that’s a place I’d like to go and see again.

ER: Been back at all?

BW: No, I’d like to go there. Joan wouldn’t travel, she wouldn’t fly, she wouldn’t go on a coach. But I wouldn’t mind if someone said, ‘would you like to go back to Lubeck’.

JR: You could go on Eurostar.

JW: Well, now, yes. I wouldn’t be too keen though.

BW: The city was untouched, It was a lovely place and I finished up there and I was demobbed from there. Sorry, I went to Lubeck and then I went south for a little while and I was demobbed from there – ’46. That was me and my army career.

ER: Had you as yet met Joan?

BW: Oh yes, before I went in the army, when I was still at school, or rather I’d just left, hadn’t I dear? Joan used to come down The Folly because she was friendly with Joan Savage in The Folly. All kids together then.

ER: You were both quite young then?

JW: Well, I went an extra couple of years (at school).

BW: I came home, we got married in 1948. I worked at Addises then. I was there before the Forces, went back again for a trial but couldn’t stand it there then, then it come to night work, too much. A great big machine knocking out these two handles all night.

ER: There’s a picture in Len Green’s book today, there was a picture of Addises where there was all these people shaping handles.

BW: Ah yes, that was bone, they were making them of bone, but then, of course, plastic come in with it and that all stopped, fortunately. And they went into these ejector moulders. You put the stuff in one end and it ejected a dozen handles the other end. All you could do was watch it, put the stuff in and watch ‘em come out.

JR: Where were you working during the war, Joan?

JW: Up at Brickendon, the big house and that was War Ag [SOE Special Operation Executive].

JR: That was interesting – I don’t know much about that.

ER: What’s her name, the lady from Queens Road – Muir, Eileen Muir, she was a woman who came to Hertford during the war. She was called up and at first she had to look after cows and cattle and I think she got a job up at the big house, Brickendonbury.

JW: In the first instance we were over the electricity showrooms.

ER: By the war memorial?

JW: Yes, then we went up to Brickendonbury.

ER: You kept in contact with Bert While all this…?

JW: Oh yes.

ER: Contact by post.

BW: Oh yes, and mum went up and told you I’d been wounded, didn’t she. Oh yes, we was childhood sweethearts really.

ER: So you got fed up with working at Addises.

BW: Well the trouble was we lived in a little cottage up Hertford Heath opposite the village hall, they’re still there, in between the garage and the sweet shop – we lived in the middle one for six years. Little old cottage, the toilet was right down the bottom of the garden and if you had a hard frost you couldn’t use it. It was a good start wasn’t it dear?

JW: Then we moved down to Railway Place.

JR: How did you get from Hertford Heath to Addises, on bike?

BW: Yes! Addises turned out a whole string of people biking up the hill to Hertford Heath. Yes, quite a gang used to come down from the Heath?

JW: I used to cycle to Brickendon.

JR: How did you get through from Hertford Heath to Brickendon? I s there a secret way between the two?

JW: Well, there is a lane. I did that one day but it took me hours to get there. I used to go down to Cowper School and Hagsdell Road, the back way there, there was a lane by the farm (Dunkirks).

ER: Oh, that long drive that takes you [Morgans Walk] down to the big house. So you left Addises and is that when you went to Norrises?

BW: We got friendly with a young couple and he worked for Finches up Hertford Heath and he said, ‘I know a chap who’s looking for somebody like yourself just starting in the building trade. He lives in Hoddesdon’. He give me the name of this chap. He said, ‘go and see him, he’ll give you a job, he’s ever such a nice man’. So I cycled over to Lilac Road to see Mr Wynne. I said how I’d got to know about him and he said, ‘that’s a good recommendation, you don’t know anything about the building trade?’ I said ‘no’ and he said, ‘well, you’ll learn’. And I started work with Frank and his brother. It was take a shovel on your bike and pedal. He hadn’t got no transport. He had a bike, I had a bike and his brother.

Side 2

BW: The work was mainly greenhouse work, laying boiler bases and building chimneys and all that sort of thing.

ER: ‘Cos in those days the Lea Valley was the hub of…

BW: Oh yes, it was the market garden. I forget the name of the field, if you go up the hill and look right across the Lea Valley.

ER: That’s the hill that takes you up towards Harlow. There’s a cross roads there now, it’s just like a lake.

BW: Nazeing was at the top of it.

JR: Is that near Ada Cole Memorial Stables?

BW: Yes, that’s it. Glasshouses, hundreds of them, weren’t there. Plenty of work but I had to cycle from Hertford Heath to Hoddesdon, get to his house, wait for him and his brother then cycle away through to Roydon, all out that way and cycle home again. Eventually, Frank got quite busy and was able to buy a little truck, which was nice. His brother could drive so it was all right then, we was under cover, thank goodness.

Well, things didn’t work out quite so well, work wasn’t coming in and he said, ‘I’m afraid I shall have to give you the sack, Bert. I can’t afford to keep you’. He’d employed another bricklayer by then, dear old Charlie. So Charlie said, ‘I know what we’ll do. My brother works for Richard Ginn and son in Hertford. Perhaps we can get a job there’. Anyway, he got in touch with his brother, yes, come down, he said, to Richard Ginn and we’ll have a word with them. We went down and got a job straight away. We were so lucky

ER: That was right opposite my dad’s shop.

BW: Yes, Richard Ginn, the old yard there.

ER: Good old firm.

JR: Who was the boss then?

BW: Mr Leslie Ginn.

JR: Leslie?

BW: The other one died, didn’t he, Stuart, certainly before Leslie died.

ER: Was he the tall one?

BW: Oh, very tall and thin man, always wore a trilby.

JR: Was that Leslie?

BW: Leslie Ginn, yes.

JR: One of the sons, of Alexander, Leslie and Stuart, died about 1941. There was also a grandson, Allen, who died in the war. Was that Leslie’s son or Stuart’s son? That was his sister’s son.

JW: No, Purkiss Ginn – Eta. They lived in The Avenue.

BW: Yes, that was Stuart’s son.

JR: Right, so Stuart and his son died very close together.

BW: Leslie Ginn was in charge of the firm. He was the only one left.

JR: Did he have any family?

BW: No, there was him and another gentleman, Mr Botsford.

ER: Lived in Sandy Close.

BW: And Ernie, what was his other name, oh dear, but they were the only people there. They were a good firm to work for.

ER: They had a good, a big work force there, didn’t they. They used to be standing by the gate half-past seven in morning. They always had a lot of apprentices, didn’t they. There was a chap lived in one of those little cottages, No. 60 [St Andrew Street] Frank Medcalf.

BW: Fred.

ER: Oh, Fred Medcalf, had a son went to the Grammar School. He was a widower, I believe.

BW: Married again, didn’t he. He lived up the little road along the top of Byde Street there, Wellington Street. Oh yes, they was a good firm to work for. Charlie and I, we were sent up to the Convent School at Hertingfordbury. They was working there then and we started work as bricklayer and labourer. And I stopped with Ginns until the new road took away Leslie’s house and the works. And the whole lot of us went and started for Norris.

ER: I suppose they captured a lot of the work that Ginns…

BW: They took on and finished off for them. We’ve always admired Russell Norris for that. He took the whole lot of us. Never done a stroke of work from then until April. The winter of ’63 was one of the coldest winters we’ve had and he kept us in money, all had our wages just the same.

ER: And was Russell the driving force or was Morley?

BW: Both of them. Yes, the old man had died so just Russell Norris and Morley in charge. And they kept it all going until things got a bit funny with them. Harry Barton, who was foreman, got a job as foreman with Cramb and Dean at Hatfield, so then we left Norrises and went to work with Cramb and Dean. Well, that was all right then they started going further afield, so I was getting a lot of travelling. So I’d had enough of that and I didn’t like some of the men that worked there.

JR: Were you still on the bike at this time?!

BW: By then we’d got a little car, a little Morris Minor, so I used to use that for going to work. They were working way out, you had to have transport to get there. A lot of the work was out St Albans way. After a while, I got a bit fed up. We’d done a big housing site at Panshanger and as you go this way through, you get to Safeways (Welwyn Garden City). You know where the fish farm is (Tewinbury), up the hill, the golf course, there’s a large roundabout and you go towards the school, the houses on the right-hand side there, they were built by Cramb and Dean.

JR: I lodged in one of those houses for a time. I didn’t know it was Cramb and Dean.

BW: I worked on every one, I do know that. When we eventually got there we didn’t actually do any building work as such because most of the houses were constructed. We had to go along with the finishing gangs, and for the fireplaces – bricklayers do that sort of work, tiles, bricks in the garden, couple of garden walls. Well then that began to wind up and I went back to Norrises again.

ER: Pleased to see you!

BW: Oh, Russell, yes and I stayed with Norrises until that sad day when I got the push.

ER: Was that when you retired?

BW: Well, no. I’d had this heart attack and the doctor said, ‘get a job that’s a bit, not such hard work for yourself’. Then came that sad day when we all packed up work and I came home.

JW: Well it was Easter weekend.

BW: And I’d got an appointment with the doctor to go and see him for a check-up, and that was it, I had to take early retirement. I was 58.

ER: But you haven’t really been retired at all, have you? Because there are a lot of other things in your lives. We haven’t spoken much to Joan, really. There’s Bengeo Cottage Gardens, so how did that all come about, Joan?

JW: Do you remember Miss Taylor at all, Lily Taylor? (Yes) Well, she was a school teacher at Duncombe School. She gave it all up in the end and folk just brought things to me and I took it over.

ER: So you became the Secretary, general dogsbody of Bengeo Cottage Gardens, back in the days when they used to have the show in Porthill House gardens.

JW: Yes, Mr Hargreaves.

ER: When was that then, Joan?

JE: 25 years ago.

ER: 25 years ago you took that on, I suppose temporary.

JW: Well, more or less, I’m still doing it! Bert was already chairman then.

BW: Bill Taylor – he was chairman there for some while before I took over.

JW: Yes, he died.

BW: So Lily Taylor said, ‘you’re next!’

ER: She was like a lot of women, she was a bit bossy.

BW: Yes, but she’s a lovely lady really.

ER: You had a big connection with Bengeo Cottage Gardens, longer than the 25 years?

JW: Oh yes. Mum was in it years ago.

ER: So a lifetime really in Bengeo Cottage Gardens and still doing it and it’s still flourishing?

BW: To date, how many members, dear?

JW: I think we’re about 480 now. We have been up to 500, ‘cos we’re losing quite a lot of the older people.

ER: People don’t garden, do they (No)

JR: You have those outings, don’t you?

JW: Yes.

JR: The people I know that go on the outings, I wouldn’t call all of them particularly hard-working gardeners. They seem to go for the social side of it.

BW: Well they enjoy the aspect of looking at really good gardens, you find them, and they all some. We’ve got two coaches almost full on.

JW: Well, we do 10 outings a year.

JR: It seems like every month but two months you don’t go, obviously.

JW: We do May to October, Sundays, and then we do every other month before mid-winter.

ER: That takes a lot of organising. Who has to do that?

JW: I do.

ER: All those planned trips every month, organising the coaches, making sure they’re there on time.

JW: Well, I start in October, write to the houses and that and then it’s all completed by Christmas, so that we get the card out in January.

BW: Soon as that card drops on the doorway, the phone’s ringing.

JW: Almost two coaches for each one. There may be one or two drop out as time goes on, they find they’ve got a holiday booked…

BW: …they forgot about. They’re elderly people.

JW: Well no, it’s just a matter that they don’t always do it straight away.

BW: One outing we did have three…

ER: I was going to say, there was a time when I see three coaches outside Holy Trinity. And how about the actual show nowadays? Do you get so many people enter the various classes?

BW: Yes, all Bengeo. Old Hertford is diminishing in a sense, isn’t it, so we’re hoping to boost it up this year. So on the 15th September this year, in the Castle grounds there’s a festival, end of the heritage weekend, the garden festival and we’ve got out garden show inside the Castle. We’re going to have the bottom rooms of the Castle for our flower show. Normally, we have it up here at the Community Centre but it was dying there, I think. Last year we had about 10 people come.

ER: So you’re involved with the Hertford as well?

BW: Oh yes, Joan’s secretary and I’m [ER and BW overtalk].

ER: I shouldn’t say this, but have you got a particular favourite?

JW: Well, no. I enjoy doing both of them.

BW: Most of them are all together anyway.

JR: You don’t organise trips for the Hertford one, so you?

JW: No, because some of the members are in both.

ER: When you have shows, do you ever find any…, a bit of jealously between the winners or [overtalking BW and ER].

BW: You don’t hear it, Eddie, but there’s bound to be.

ER: You read in the papers sometimes, these country societies where Mrs Jones thinks she should have won the jam because she’s always won the jam.

BW: You do hear it, don’t you dear [overtalking BW and ER]. You hear sometimes, ‘well I thought mine was as good as that. Well, never mind’, and they leave it at that. There’s no fighting or tearing hair out.

ER: I remember a friend of mine, Reg Hayden, who I was in partnership with, was in the Hertford Heath and his wife still is. Reg won a lot of cups. He said, ‘I wish I hadn’t bothered. They argue – who’s going to have the big cup, who’s going to have the little cups’, and his wife occasionally still wins one of the cups and she’s 82, makes cakes.

JW: We were members of Hertford Heath when we were up there.

ER: I’m not sure that they had a show this last year because we’re very friendly with Reg Hayden’s daughter.

JW: I don’t think they did.

ER: And she used to enter sometimes.

BW: It’s like Ware, they’ve finished it. There’s no more Ware shows because of lack of membership. And Bengeo can’t find room for any more.

JR: Are your members older people or have you got young people coming in?

BW: No, not really, dear, they’re more 40s upwards.

JR: Oh well, that’s not too bad is it?

JW: There are quite a lot of 80 and over.

ER: I know a lot of Bengeo people in my age group [60s].

JW: Did the Ware Horticultural Society just die out because people are just getting older and dying.

BW: Well yes, that’s one. General lack of support for the shows, there’s hardly anybody over there.

ER: This is a common thing now. Moving you on to something I was always interested in, the Scouting Movement. I was reading my Scouting for Hertford the other day and the name Whiting cropped up in there. It crops up a lot in the local scout group. Your son, Neil…

JW: Neil joined the Cubs.

BW: Then we got involved with the Scout troop up here.

ER: And still do.

BW: Yes, we still go round to that. Go round every Monday and make sure it’s tidy.

ER: I wish I’d known your address a few months ago. I was going to do a [slide] show with Peter Ruffles and I went to the wrong site, I went looking for the old site. I asked somebody just along the road. I said, ‘Scout Hall?’ He said, ‘they knocked that down years ago, there’s no Scout Hut here now’. And, of course, it had moved. It was a Scout Fellowship meeting.

JW: That’s right, well we went to that meeting.

ER: I said to my wife, ‘I can’t find it’.

JW: It was where those little houses are now, Glenfield Court.

ER: I was yards away from it.

BW: Joan, myself and another lady – we had to do with that, the building of it.

JW: We went to various places to get this thing on the go to the Castle.

BW: We said, ‘if you’re going to knock this down we want another one’.

ER: I can remember in 1958 a bloke named Tony Whittle, there was only one patrol in those days, he rang me up and said, ‘I’m stuck, will you help me out and take a trip to Northey Island for week’s camp’. It rained every day. I mean Tony gave it up soon after that. It was 1963, when you got involved with the group and carried on after Neil gave it up.

BW: His work took him up to Cheshire.

ER: It’s a bit of a bug, it gets hold of you, like the garden.

BW: It was a big troop here.

JW: Yes, about 36 boys. A big one really as regards scouting.

ER: Did Jack Britcher come?

BW: Jack, he was the one who started this whole Hertford thing down here. Jack Brttcher, he worked for Addises. They said they were going to build houses there. We thought right, there’s our chance to do something about it. We agitated enough, they give us the new hut. But the troop had dwindled by then, the boys disappeared. There was no Scouting, just Cubs and Beavers and Guides.

ER: But you still keep an eye on the place?

JW: Oh yes.

BW: Yes, we go round there Mondays. Good job we did, a little while back a pipe burst.

ER: Is that where the Group Fellowship Scouts still meet? They were at Waterford at one time.

BW: Well, they’ve been all over the place, but I think they’ve found this is about the best venue, so they all come up here. We’ve finished up being caretakers.

JW: I suppose we’re the nearest ones. It’s only down the road, you see. We occasionally go to the meetings.

ER: I was very friendly with Kenny Hartfield, Kenny and I grew up. He was in the Sea Scouts and I was in the 3rd Hertford. I keep in touch with my old patrol leader. He’s got a shop in the Howardsgate at Welwyn Garden City, a chap named Baylis, his parents had a sweetie shop. Mickey and I, we’d been pals since we joined.

His mother’s still alive, old Mrs Baylis, down on the south coast somewhere. Strangely enough, my son married into a family of Guiders. Both the husbands run the 3rd Hertford. Richard Wing and Dickie Rawlinson and their two wives, Karen and Helen, run the Guides in Hertford and son’s wife runs the Brownies in Bengeo.

ER: So when you got married did you carry on working?

JW: Yes, I went from Hertford Heath to Brickendonbury.

BW: Well, Neil wasn’t born until we moved down to Railway Place.

JW: Well, we’d been married eight years when Neil was born.

BW: He was born with a hare lip and cleft palate and spent a lot of his time backward and forward to Great Ormond Street, right up until he was 16. Last time he went, he had his teeth all done. But he’s done all right, Eddie, he’s got a damned good job.

ER: What does he do?

JW: Well, he started off at Bishops Stortford but they’ve gone now so he working from home and he lives at Great Dunmow.

BW: He’s an area manager now.

ER: It’s nice to see them get on.

BW: Oh, he done well. He’s clever with this work, electronics. It was some weeks back – where you been? China! Well, he goes to Denmark in the morning, comes back in the evening.

ER: He’s only got to nip down.

BW: The main place is in Galway in Ireland. He pops over there now and again. He went to Copenhagen the other week!

ER: So tonight you’ve got the AGM of the Hertford Horticultural Society – where do they have that then?

BW: In the Community Centre [Sele].

ER: That still functioning? You’ve got the place at Hawthorn Close – the St John Ambulance hut. We’ve got a picture here – I’ve no idea which one is Bert when he was at Cowper School [Bert points], and there’s Bert, 3rd from the right in the front row, and is that Mr Green there as a young man?

BW: Yes.

Tape Ends