Youth Club Holidays in Guernsey
Wendy from Sunbury pinched my shorts in 1956.
Morley in Guernsey
Morley Methodist Youth Hostel, at Fort Road in Guernsey was a Methodist Church which the German Army took over as barracks during the Second World War. The congregation at that time found alternative places of worship during the war years. When the island was liberated, the building was returned to the Methodist Church, but with it’s congregation moved elsewhere, how could Methodism use the building? As a large part of the island’s economy is based on tourism, it was suggested that a Methodist Youth Hostel should be established, with two or three permanent staff, mainly including Ann who was the cook, if memory serves me right.
Youth Club adventures
Even during the war years, members of the Trinity Methodist Youth Club at Wath-upon-Dearne in the south of the West Riding of Yorkshire, started going on Club holidays together, including Ingleton in North Yorkshire in 1943. When my Mum became seriously ill in 1948, just as the NHS started to be formed, I was just a year too young to become a Youth Club member, and my brother David four years too young, being only age 10. But the Youth Club offered to look after David and I for two weeks on the same day that they had already set off on holiday, and that my mum became ill – and that was long before mobile phones and computers. So Dad took David and I by car to York and put us on a train to Whitby, where we changed trains and took a train to Robin Hood’s Bay, for my first Youth Club holiday in the Methodist Sunday School Hall at Robin Hood’s Bay. The beds were on straw-filled mattresses laid on the wooden floor, and even straw was rationed. Entertainment was putting an iron bar down the centre of someone’s straw filled mattress, or maybe a couple of girls can remember, after falling in the River Esk instead of boating on it, having to go back to the Hall to wash and change clothes, and with nothing better to do, they took needle and thread and sewed up all the boys pyjama legs across at knee level. Thanks Betty and June!
Not that I was whiter than white. At Lynton Sunday School in North Devon in 1952, a year before the devastating Lynmouth Floods, I had been seen carrying a sprig of holly into the Hall. Shirley guessed rightly what was afoot and made sure that none of the girls in her room were going to suffer. So just before they got into bed, she made sure that each girl fully checked her sleeping bag and sheets to be very sure there was no holly in their bed. And none was found. But think! Just where do you sit first when about to tuck your toes into your sleeping bag. Right! Shirley found it on top of her pillow just inside her pillow slip.
Cycle tour in Europe
Early in 1955, Tony and David, two other lads in the Youth Club asked me if I would join them on a cycle touring holiday in Europe the following year. It sounded like a great idea and in those days an adventure, but little did I realise how little “holiday” it was going to be. I should have read more closely the advice of the Cyclist Touring Club who suggested either ride not more than 40 miles each day, or for the fitter cyclist, ride an average of 40 miles each day. We did a bit more. We averaged around 65 miles each day, and one day rode 65 miles before lunch to arrive at David’s aunt and uncle’s house at the S.H.A.P.E. forces camp in time for lunch, with a gentler 40 miles still to go to the next Youth Hostel in Holland. On this trip I collected lots of colourful badges which still adorn my navy blue shorts today.
Trip to Guernsey
So in 1956, when the Trinity Methodist Youth Club set off for their second holiday at Morley Methodist Youth Club, I set off with my colourfully decorated shorts duly packed in a stout half sized cabin trunk, complete with wheels – it became a mobile seat in queues on the London Underground and elsewhere.
On this occasion, unlike 1954 when the Club had Morley to ourselves, we had to share the accommodation with a club from Sunbury-on-Thames. Not that we had any idea where that was, but the members of the two clubs got on OK together. One idea of the two leaders was to share a day trip to the very beautiful shell beach on the Island of Herm, just 30 minutes boat ride from the harbour at St. Peter Port. As so many people in Guernsey were Methodists, it didn’t take much difficulty in arranging with a boatman to take us all to Herm and back at a price teenagers could afford.
Having arrived by boat at the quay at Herm, we had another half hour walk around the island to the shell beach, looking at the strange Stick insects in the hedges as we passed. So we were hot and ready for a swim, leaving our bags and clothing on the beach with the adults in our party. When I came out of the sea, it didn’t take long for me to realise that one of the Sunbury girls whose nickname was “Funny Wendy” had taken a fancy to my shorts and was parading up and down in them. How I retrieved them was well within Rugby rules! What I didn’t realise at the time was that one of the Sunbury lads had borrowed my camera and taken an action shot of the event for your information.
On another outing to Ferm Bay on Guernsey, just below Morley Youth Hostel, another photo was taken, this time with my consent, of me with some of the girls from Trinity Youth Club, and again featuring my shorts. They would be colourful, but all we had then was Black & White (or monochrome) film. So you’ll just have to use your imagination. The girls look pretty good too.
As so many people on Guernsey were Methodists, it didn’t take long for us to meet up with local Youth Club members, especially when they invaded Morley on a Sunday evening for a big social event almost every week. The place was packed. We made friends with a group who were putting the finishing touches to their entry for the Battle of Flowers, which takes place each year in Saumerez Park in the centre of the Island. This was the last year in which a battle actually took place, in that, at the end of the competition for best exhibits, at a given signal, the flowers were torn from the many exhibits and thrown at their competitors – but strictly in fun. This particular year, the club we had made friends with had designed and decorated a two-thirds model of the ship the “Mayflower”, with sails and rigging covered with flowers right to the top of the main mast. My photo of this ship in Black & White does not do justice to the gorgeous blue and white flowers used to decorate the sails of this ship. This wasn’t by any means the last time I spent on holiday in Guernsey. But if you go to Morley now, it’s become a block of flats, still just near Fort George.
(Photos to follow)