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Written by Stan Simons 1999, reproduced by kind permission of his daughter Diana Glasspool.

The Story of Stan:
Family History

In 1999, Stan Simons wrote the story of his life, for the benefit and pleasure of the rest of his family. Burton Latimer Heritage Society is pleased and proud to be allowed to publish extarcts, by kind permission of his daughter Diana Glasspool. The sections published here were chosen as illustrations of local life in the latter half of the last century.

Stanly Simons and the family in which we grew up - mother, father and sisters
The Simons Family
Ellen [known as Helen] with Edna on her knee; Kathleen [Kitty];
Stanley; Marjorie [Madge]; William [Will] Simons

Born on the same day that General Sir Stanley Maude and his troops took Baghdad on the 11th March 1917, and Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig (later Earl of Bermersyde) was Commander in Chief, I was christened Stanley Douglas. Thank heavens I wasn't born a girl or I might have been a Maud.

My story begins in Derbyshire, at the ancestral home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. My great grandparents worked for the Duke (1790-1858), great grandad was the coachman and weighed 24 stones (336 lbs.) and his wife 18 stones (252 lbs.) was employed as a cook.

At that time the 6th Duke only employed, as his personal servants, people who were large. The coach my ancestor drove is still on display at Chatsworth.

My mother was born in 1886 and named Ellen Stevenson but she didn't like this name and always referred to herself as 'Helen Stevenson'. This is the Christian name on both her marriage and death certificates. She had a younger brother, Charlie, and an older sister, Annie.

The family came from Chesterfield and I still remember my Aunt Nin, who lived in a square of cottages with her husband, who was a coalminer. She was the Ena Sharples of the square and anyone in trouble went to her. There was always a fire in the grate, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The coal was supplied free, from the mine, but dumped in the street and had to be wheelbarrowed around the back of the house. When Aunt Nin's husband came home from work there was always a tin bath in front of the fire, full of hot water. It didn't matter who was in the house at the time; he just stripped off and got in the bath. I think she put a towel in front of him whilst he got fully covered with water.

Uncle Charlie went to work in the mine at the age of 13. Whilst there he got friendly with an Irishman known as Paddy who one day said "I'm leaving to go to Australia." Charlie said "I wish I could come with you", to which Paddy replied: "When I get fixed up I'll send for you." The months went by but one day a letter arrived from Australia and inside was a ticket for ship passage to that far off land.

My Mum said if Paddy had sent money Charlie would have spent it. As it was he set off for the six weeks journey with very little money in his pocket, most of which he had spent on the voyage. Just 15 years of age he landed in Sydney Harbour with only three pence, and no Paddy in sight. He panicked but suddenly Paddy appeared and seeing his distress gave him five golden guineas. They then set off for the outback where they tended sheep and lived in a one-room hut. Once a week they would throw all their belongings out and sweep the place out. They never saw any other human beings for weeks at a time.

At the outbreak of World War One in 1914, Paddy said he was going to join the Army and my Uncle said in that case so was he.

On the field of battle the Australians were retreating and my Uncle was shot in his left eye, the bullet going right through his head. As he lay seriously wounded two Germans appeared and Charlie tried to get out his revolver, seeing with his good eye, which obviously was impossible. The Germans went away but came back with a wattle on which they placed my Uncle and then carried him to the Australian lines. They shouted: "Wasser, Wasser," to which the Aussies shouted: "We'll give you wasser you b — s." The Germans then said, "No comrade, Wasser" [meaning water]. At this the Germans were welcomed with opened arms and given food and cigarettes. I believe they were fed up with the war and wanted to be taken prisoners.

At the casualty clearing station he was left among the dead and dying until a medical officer came by and Charlie, looking out of his good eye, asked for a cigarette. The Officer said that if he were well enough to smoke a cigarette then he would see what he could do for him. This undoubtedly saved his life.

Taken back to England he lay in a London hospital for many months and my Dad and his sister Nellie were among the people who visited him. Thus started a love affair with my Aunt Nellie and they eventually married and returned to Australia. He was welcomed as a hero and became a silversmith.

Mum's sister, Aunt Annie, married a William Smith and they also emigrated to Australia and had three children, my cousins Mildred, Reginald and Una. I have been corresponding with Una since 1934.

Mum's father came to Kettering and was employed at the Kettering and Cransley Iron and Steel Works. One day he was promoted to a managerial position but on the way home, all excited, he stopped to tell a friend the good news. Standing in the street unfortunately brought on a chill, which turned into pneumonia, and he died.

My Dad was born in Sibbertoft, near Market Harborough. His father died at the age of 24 from diabetes, but his mother married again to a Mr. Warren, who was a clock repairer. I have a large prize winning photograph of him, at his bench, with an eyepiece, mending a watch. They lived at 28 Wellington Street, Kettering, where I was born.

Stan Simons' grandfather at work with a clock
Grandad Warren - The Clock Maker

Step-Grandfather Henry Warren was a very active man and was happiest when using his energies and effort in some sort of work or organisation. For many years he trained and conducted a choir of young people in the town, who annually visited the Crystal Palace and took part in the Co-operative Societies' great choir festival. One of his cherished possessions was a silver-mounted, suitably inscribed baton, presented to him by the choir.

Stand Simons and asisters with their grandfather William Warren
Grandad Warren,
with Kitty, Madge and Stan
He was an ardent worker for the cause of Temperance, and for many years the conductor of the Temperance choir. At the age of 75 he set sail for Sydney aboard the 'Themistocles' to live with my Aunt Nellie and Uncle Charlie. His musical ability and craftsmanship, as a watch and clock repairer, gained him many friends among the crew of the 'Themistocles'. It was always a great pleasure for him to visit the harbour when the 'Old Ship' as he called it arrived, in order to have a chat with his friends on board and to glean tidings about the old country.

Mr Warren was very devoted to the Fuller Church at Kettering and always retained his membership, although he lived so many miles away. It was his cherished wish that one day he would be able to pay a return visit to the town he loved so dearly.

One morning, at the age of eighty, he went down to the docks to visit his old friends, when he fell into the water, just as the ship was a few feet from the harbour wall. The time was 11.10 a.m. and my Aunt Nellie was in the garden, hanging out some washing, when she ran into the house distraught and cried to Uncle Charlie: "I've just heard Grandad calling Nellie, Nellie." He said, "Don't be daft," or words to that effect, "he's down at the harbour," some nine miles from where they lived.

They looked at the time and it was 11.10 am. Grandad Warren carried a watch with him and that's the time it stopped. The watch was sent to me but unfortunately I have lost it. A man dived into the sea to try and save him and about 300 people held the ship back with their hands. At the inquest it was found that Grandad had had a stroke and was dead before he hit the water.

My father tried to join the Army at the beginning of the First World War but was rejected, as he was said to have a heart condition. He then lived to be 92 years old, and when he died this was nothing to do with his heart. His great love of life was music, and he played the trombone in the Wellingborough Silver Band before the First World War. After the War he played for many years with the Kettering Rifle Club Band. He was also a gifted baritone singer and sang at many an Eisteddfod in Kettering. Our house was always full of music.

When he eventually lost all his natural teeth he had to give up the trombone. Mum had a friend in Australia who had premonitions. One day she wrote to say that Dad would be offered an instrument, of which he knew nothing, but he was to buy it as it would earn him a lot of money. Shortly afterwards he was offered a double bass and, purely because of that letter, he bought it. He then played in various dance bands until he was eighty years of age.

Dad worked as a foreman packer at the Holyoak Boot and Shoe Company, Kettering, owned by the Co-operative Wholesale Society and was Secretary of their Welfare Fund for many years. He was responsible in purchasing many books to be presented to scholars at the various schools in the town. I recall that I won one and my sister Madge another. Often the house was filled with lovely books.

I'm afraid that I was a disappointment to Dad. Although I took piano lessons for five years, tried the trumpet and the violin, I was no good at any of them. I do however appreciate good music, especially the songs my Dad used to sing.

Early years Employment Service Career Under Fire Post-War Memories Epilogue

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