Memories of Skegness

Mr Douglas North

READING about Mr Douglas North will evoke many memories for longtime residents of Skegness. Douglas, at 79, has taken us back in time and tells us of his family’s long association with the town. His story of ‘how it was’ is a record of his own life and the progression of Skegness from a quiet, seaside town to the busy resort which it now is. Douglas was born in Skegness and attended Cavendish Road Infants’ School where his teacher was Miss Scrimshaw. He told us: “Miss Scrimshaw selected boys from the school to sing in the choir at St Matthew’s Church and some of us ‘pumped’ the organ at the church.” Later, Douglas attended Roman Bank School – now Turner’s Auctioneers – and completed his education at the Lumley School which has recently been demolished.

His first job on leaving school was as a roundsman for the Co-operative Society whose premises were on High Street. However, Douglas soon became an apprentice bricklayer and he worked for several well-known builders both before and after the Second World War. He is pictured with his workmates outside the Coop building – they include Mr Price, Mr Hubert, Mr Smith, Mr Price’s son, Mr Hogg, Mr Sykes, Mr Dean, Mr Price’s brother and Harry Ramsden.

Outside the Co-op building in High Street Skegness

As was often the case in those days, ‘work’ started before schooldays ended. At the age of nine, Douglas could be found on Skegness beach, “helping Mr Elliott with his donkeys.” When he was 14, he was still on the beach, working for Fravigars. Willing to work for their “pocket money” Douglas and his friends acted as caddies for the golfers and received one shilling and sixpence for the 5-mile walk around the course. Older caddies received two shillings, and John Player, then living opposite the course, paid smokers in cigarettes, and non-smokers in cash! ‘Those were great days,” he said. “We earned the money so we could go to the pictures.”

At that time, there were pleasure boats, sand yachts, tea rooms and rock stalls on and near the beach but, said Douglas, “All these disappeared when the road was built from the clock tower to the sea.” He recalled that the chalets were always ‘well let’ during the summer months.

At 18, Douglas had played for the Skegness Blue Rovers, along with his three older brothers and one of his treasured photographs shows the players lining up to be snapped.’

Skegness Blue Rovers football team

Douglas’ brother Harold played for Boston Town and and another brother, Wilf, was in the Skegness Town team.

Douglas’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather were born in Skegness – his father at the cottage within the grounds of the Gasworks; his mother was born at Winthorpe. Douglas believes the town was a nicer place during his childhood. “in those days, people swept the frontages of their houses and everyone took a pride in their homes.” Now, he feels that not enough money is available for improvements and regrets the passing of the old UDC. “The toilets on Lumley Road are disgusting,” he remarked.

Time was, when “40 or 50 trains came in every day,” said Douglas. “Barrow boys used to converge at the station and taxi drivers weren’t too pleased. The boys were chased off by a policeman.”

The beach once boasted a Sand Inspector – Mr Smith – and commercial photographers were not allowed to take their cameras on to the beach. They could do so if they stood in the water to take pictures!” Douglas recalls. He remembers Mr O’Connor’s father as a very good photographer, not afraid to get his feet wet!

One of 13 children, Douglas was only 20 years old when ‘called up’. He served in the Royal Engineers during World War Two and was involved in both Dunkirk and the battle of Monte Casino. Italy, serving with the 46th Division. Wounded at Monte Casino, he was was shipped home to Middlesex Hospital and while stationed in Ashford, Kent, he met Doris, the nurse who later became his first wife. Their daughter, Angela, is the mother of former Skegness Town Councillor, Mrs Lisa Collins. “I believe the Labour Party has treated Lisa very badly,” he said, adding,: “It’s now all in the past, of course, and she is still a staunch supporter of the Party.” Sadly, Doris died some years ago.

Throughout his war service, Douglas was surprised more than once, meeting up with friends. In France he met his friend, Harold Baker and in Italy, he came across another friend, John Keyworth.

After the war, Douglas worked at Butlins for a time; he remembers Billy Butlin coming to the town and living in a caravan on Cavendish Road.

Released from the army, Douglas took up his trade once again and was involved in the repair of the clock tower. He has very accurate information on damage to the clock tower, which he assures us he can prove beyond question and is amused at some of the inaccuracies which have arisen over the years. He told us. “The bomb which dropped on Lumley Road took the roof off the NatWest Bank.” 1953 saw him helping with the repair work at The Derbyshire Miners’ Home, following the floods and later. Douglas was employed by Skegness Town Council in the building of council houses on Church Lane and Eudo Road.

Douglas retired in 1965 and now lives quietly with his wife. Daphne. He has manymemories on which to reflect, all collected throughout a busy life and we know that our feature covers only a smal I part of the story. Now. he is able to enjoy his favourite hobby, gardening and we thank Douglas for his tales of days gone by in Skegness.

March 1998


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