My Methodist Memories
From Wath-upon Dearne to Withycombe
I have a lot of material and am not really sure at present where to begin. Maybe at my Baptism in 1934 at Christchurch Wesleyan Methodist Church at Hoyland Common near Barnsley in what was the West Riding of Yorkshire. I have a copy of the Register and a poor photo of the Church which is now a furniture store of some kind.
Trinity Methodist Church, Wath-upon-Dearne
I grew up at Wath-upon-Dearne near Rotherham where I have a few photos of Trinity Methodist Church where I was a Sunday School Scholar and later a teacher in the Junior Department. I remember the Baby Bulge after the Second World War as it “flowed” into the Junior Department one summer afternoon in about 1949 or 1950. Instead of the usual half a dozen children coming down stairs with Aunty Peggy from the Primary Class, there were 48 children. As a child, Aunty Peggy had lived at “Montgomery House”, the 17th century home of James Montgomery the hymn writer.
When I was age 11 and in the Senior Class, I often used to hand out hymn books before Morning Worship if there were not sufficient stewards, and then collect hymn books after the service while the stewards counted the collection. However, one Sunday morning there were no stewards in Church, so I asked an elderly member from the other side of the church to help me take collection. Then I escorted the preacher to the pulpit for the service to start. After the service and gathering the hymn books, I then counted the collection, opening the envelopes and noting the amounts on each envelope for tax records. I am as little interested now as I was then about who had given how much money. I then left the money in a drawer with the envelopes on the table to await collection and went home and told my parents what I’d done. Dad was then a teacher in the Senior Department of the Sunday School and either then or later became a Trustee. The date would be around 1945 – the end of the war in Europe. It was also the last Sunday that there were no stewards at Trinity.
Youth Club Holiday at Robin Hood’s Bay
In 1948 I was still a year too young to join the Trinity Methodist Youth Club. They had organised another annual holiday – their sixth – to camp in the Sunday School at Robin Hood’s Bay Methodist Chapel’s Sunday School situated right at the top of the village. Easy to say, but not so easy to get there from the beach at the bottom of the village, as the main road up through the village has a gradient of one in two and a half. The road doesn’t have a pavement for pedestrians, but steps, as I recall.
On the Saturday morning as the teenage members were setting off by train up to York and then to Whitby before taking the local train to Robin Hood’s Bay, I went down to Sandygate Farm to play cricket with John the farmer’s son. Halfway through the game, John’s grandfather came to his garden gate and called me and said that I had to go home immediately. There was an immediacy about the message that made me cycle home with all speed.
When I arrived home Mum was flat on the settee with a bowl of blood nearby and Dad mopping her brow. Our G.P. who was also the M.O.H. for our town came and ordered an ambulance and told Mum to keep breathing for the next ten minutes. Dad was then torn between looking after my younger brother and myself and following Mum to the hospital. Somehow the knowledge of my Mum’s ambulance trip near the southern end of the West Riding of Yorkshire had made it’s way to Robin Hood’s Bay in the north of the North Riding of Yorkshire and Trinity Methodist Youth Club on holiday there. The Youth Club Leader, Mr. W. Eric Haigh (later to become Vice President of M.A.Y.C. in 1958) sent a telegram to Dad offering to look after my brother David and I for the next fortnight, which Dad promptly accepted, and replied by telegram on Sunday morning to say we were on our way by train. Mr. Haigh and my Dad were both Chief Officers for Wath-upon-Dearne Urban District Council, as well as both being members of Trinity Methodist Church and involved with young people, so they knew each other very well.
On Sunday morning, Dad filled suitcases for my brother David and myself with enough clothes for a fortnights holiday, put us in his Morris 8 Series II car and drove us to York to catch the train to Whitby. On the way Dad drove through Sherburn-in-Elmet and I asked why he had slowed down. Dad pointed out that we had come into a 30 mph area, so he was obliged to drive below 30 mph. We had never before known Dad to drive faster than 30 mph, so this was an event that stayed in my mind, like when I once did 100 mph! When we boarded the train in York, Dad had already left to get back to Mum, but to our surprise our Aunt Evelyn was on that same train and going to Robin Hood’s Bay taking charge of some children going for a day out.
Unfortunately, when we arrived at Robin Hood’s Bay later that Sunday morning, the Youth Club had gone for a day out. They clearly had left before Dad’s telegram had arrived, as we could see the telegram through the window, sat on the floor just inside the door. So David and I had to just wait until the Youth Club came back. Dad had given me some pocket money, so eventually we had lunch. But with the Chapel right at the top of that very steep hill, and Aunty and the beach at the bottom and my ten year old brother moaning because he was bored and didn’t know what to do, we had a very tiring day. When the Youth Club eventually did arrive home for supper, we found that our beds were to be straw filled mattresses laid on the floor. Our straw was to be a “share” of the straw from other people’s mattresses. It made all the mattresses rather thin and very susceptible to jokers putting a 1″ thick iron bar down the centre of your bed. I enjoyed the holiday but I don’t think David did. In the circumstances, when the Youth Club started it’s Friday evening club nights the following October, I was allowed to be a member in advance of my 14th birthday which would have been in February 1949. This is only a “snatch” at some of my Methodist memories.
Overseas Missions Secretary
By the time that I was age 17 and still a bit young to be on the Leader’s Meeting, I was in charge of delivering the Overseas Missions magazine “Kingdom Overseas” not only to all our Church members, but at the request of Pauline at Church House, to all the other Churches in our circuit. All the magazines came to me at home at 71, Sandygate at Wath-upon-Dearne where I bundled them into the correct numbers for each Church, then with them stowed in the capacious saddle bag of my cycle I delivered them around the circuit. On the death of our Overseas Mission Secretary, Mr. Whilley, I took on that post but was still too young to be on the Leader’s Meeting, so Overseas Missions business was dealt with after a morning service to organise various events.
When I was 24 and still attending Youth Club I was to be part of the MAYC London Weekend display at the Royal Albert Hall in May 1958. It was to be the finale of the work of Rev. Len Barnett’s work as Secretary of MAYC On this occasion our club were to be the introit of the event starting 7 minutes before the show proper, acting the part of a club in a London park at any MAYC London Weekend and doing all the usual things like heckling speakers at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, or the girls dancing on the grass. As the leader of this group I had a hardboard banner setting out what we were about. It had a 12 feet long post with an 8 ft by 4 ft sheet of hardboard cut into two and nailed on either side of the post. For modern youngsters not used to the Imperial measurements used before the 1970’s, 6 feet equates to about 1.8 metres, so 12 feet was about 3.6 metres. An 8 foot long board was about 2.4 metres and four feet was about 1.2 metres wide. So fifty years later and I’m still thinking equally in Imperial and metric measures, though why we accepted metric measures when we had defeated Napoleon I can never understand. So this board had its corners rounded around the vertical message “Meet A Yorkshire Club”.
A month later and I had been required to end my deferment from National Service and attend for training in the R.A.F. After being provided with a uniform and kit at Cardington in Bedfordshire, we were sent for “square bashing” at Wilmslow in Cheshire. For the un-initiated, the bashing the square receives is from our boots as we learn to march. From there we had a week’s leave at home before being sent for trade training at Melksham in Wiltshire. When I got home I was able to get out of the rough material of the uniform for a day or two, and realising that I would be at Melksham for about 3 months, on the Monday I telephoned the office of Rev. Reg Bedford the new Secretary of M.A.Y.C. Here I was answered by Margaret his secretary, who took details of my home address and then sent me details of the Youth Club secretaries near Melksham. As I was by then a trained Youth Club worker, I had offered to help these Clubs during the next three months.
Arriving in Melksham on the following Friday afternoon, I took a taxi to get me and my kit bag up to the camp where I was given a billet for my stay while training. During my first boring evening, not knowing the area, I was watching Scottish country dancing, when the camp tannoy bust into life and instructed me to go to the guard room immediately. I wondered what I might have done wrong, but found Mr. ‘Bert Butler wanted to meet me. His daughter Eileen was one of the two Youth Club secretaries to whom I had written, but he needed to contact me before a letter could reach me. The following Sunday was the Harvest Festival of Forest Methodist Chapel at Melksham, and I was invited to go with him and his family to the afternoon and evening services where the preacher was to be Revd. Fred Cotterill, Chairman of the Bristol District
Cutting out the next two years takes me to ending my National Service in the R.A.F. and starting a new job with Devon County Council. This is as you will appreciate, quite a long way from home at Wath-upon-Dearne. Eileen Butler and I had become engaged and I needed work that was nearer to where she lived. A couple of years later again, and we were married and had moved to Exmouth in Devon. On our first Sunday evening we walked down to the nearest Methodist Church which was Withycombe Methodist Church where we met members of the congregation including Ron and Joan Worsley who were the Youth Club leaders. The four of us still continue to support young people, as Ron and Joan’s youngest son Mark is Chairman of “Centre Stage, Exmouth” where teenagers train in musical theatre to an exceptionally high standard. I take our teenage granddaughter down to Withycombe Methodist Church where they rehearse each Friday evening. Working in this environment from time to time means meeting theatrical stars of international repute, a few of whom have been members of Centre Stage. Other youngsters meet in our church buildings as Brownies and Guides and others in a Toddlers Club. I’m now the Support Group minute secretary for the Church, but that is not a standard Methodist committee format, as it runs much wider that the confines of a Family Committee and allows the Church to operate flexibly but in conjunction with the Church Council where formal church business is conducted.
Where are our Archives?
In the intervening years I have been District Property Treasurer and attended national Property Committees. Last year as a member of the District Property team I presented information to Church Property teams of the District on the various forms of environmental heating currently available. One of the other talks that day was from our District Archivist, Roger Thorne, so I have an idea where the archives of the Youth Club at Trinity Methodist Church at Wath-upon-Dearne should have been deposited. But so far no one has been able to tell me where they are. It’s enough to fill a small room, so it’s too big to get lost. But Tony Mumford at Rotherham archives didn’t know about it and the Sheffield District Archivist who was new when I asked, didn’t know about it. Does anyone know?