The first bit…


A couple of  boys from Barking.

Back in 1935, a couple of boys were born within the sound of the Bow Bells, moved to the same L.C.C. estate, in Essex, lived within a quarter of a mile, or less, of each other, for 15 years, never met.

I’m kind of expecting this is going to turn into a long ramble, so if anyone’s planning on reading the lot, might I suggest you get yourself a cuppa tea, or coffee, a Spam sandwich or something more palatable and be prepared to be either bored, fascinated  incredulous; is that another word for gobsmacked?

As you’ve already gathered I’m one of the two ‘Barking Boys’, and for the sake of this post I shall refer to the other boy as George (after KGV naturally, being an English royalist!), I was born in April and George in November.

For reasons that I never understood, we lived in Becontree, which was in the Borough of Barking;  but we came from Dagenham. At least our postal address was Dagenham. Simply put we lived in Becontree in the Borough of Barking. Postal address Dagenham!

Confused? Good! Read on! 😈

Both Boroughs, Barking and Dagenham, were in the county of Essex. But they’re not anymore!  No, they are now just one some thing or other, to give them the full whack “The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham”.

Somehow they’ve managed to pick these two places up, join them together and dumped them on the other side of the River Roding into London.

What this has to do, with what I’m going to ramble on about, is anybody’s guess, I live in hope. 🐻

As I was born 7 or 8 months earlier than George, I started school in ’38, after the summer holiday, George would have had to wait until late September ’39, and we all know, well we should all know, what happened at the beginning of that month!

Whether he did, or not, doesn’t really matter, as far as this dollop of codswallops worth!

For reasons unknown George wasn’t sent to Campbell Infants School, in Langley Crescent, even though it was much closer to his home in Woodward Road.He was bunged off to Bonham Road Infants.

I’m giving these street names, so that those with a deep interest in all of this, can open up Google Earth and have a break from this!

For those unfamiliar with the English education system of the 1930’s & 40’s a synopsis might be a good idea. What it’s like or how it works these days I have no idea, but back then when the girls & boys reached 11 years they did what was termed the 11 Plus exams.

This was to sort the chaff from the wheat. The parents completed a form, in which they were required to nominate three schools, that their child, if successful in the 11+ might go to, to further their education.

My turn came in 1946, George I imagine in ’47.

I haven’t got a clue, why my mothers first selection for me, was South East Technical College. perhaps she wanted me to be a plumber. Her second choice, (and my first) was Barking Abbey Grammar; and the third was the Park Modern Secondary School for Boys; the latter was where my brother, Stanley (Sonny) went, as did every boy in the street. I didn’t understand or know it at the time but I was doomed! 😥

The 11 Plus exams were to be held at The ‘Abbey’ ; and I along with my only chum, Joey Richardson, and presumably, the rest of the year four, from Campbell Junior School went along to the cloistered corridors and classrooms of Barking Abbey.barking_abbey_curfew_tower_london1

A little bit of history wont go astray here, for those interested in the subject. The original Barking Abbey goes back to  pre-Norman invasion times. William the Bastard, after winning, and taking the throne of England; lived  for some time in Barking Abbey, whilst he was waiting for the Tower of London to be built.

Along comes Henry VIII, a few  years later; 467 to be exact, in 1539, sacked/dissolved it after 900 years of  continuous operation, for want of a better word, but much remained of the buildings, which became the school; now I believe precious little of that remains.

In 1742 Lt James Cook RN, married a Miss Elizabeth Batts at St Margaret’s Church, which you can see behind the Bell Tower of Barking Abbey. She survived him by more than 50 years, out lived all their children, and died aged 93 years. My late brother was christened there in 1933,

Here endeth the history lesson.

Joey was pretty excited, his mother had nominated the abbey first preference, and he was looking forward to going there; I, on the other hand, had expectations of going off to the S.E Tech where ever that was. We neither doubted, that we would pass the exam. 🙄

The results arrived, and my mother was upset, I’d failed to secure a place at the Tech, however, I had succeeded in the examinations  and was offered a place at the Abbey. 😀

My happiness was short lived. My mother decided that I wouldn’t be happy there, and I’d be wasting my time. It would be better for me to take the next offer. Park Modern; I’d be with my brother and all the boys in the street.

Joey went off to the Abbey, and I never saw him again; and I went to the Park. 😦

What ever happened to George? I should be hearing you ask. I imagine that the following year he went along to those same cloistered corridors and classrooms and sat his 11 Plus. Of course, I have no idea which three schools, his mother, or father, had selected;  but it doesn’t matter as George actually failed his 11 Plus.

He didn’t go to Park Modern Secondary School but went to another secondary school in Bromhall Road. We were destined not to meet.

In 1950 at age 15 I was removed from school and sent to work in an Insurance company as a junior clerk,  a year later George left school and  became an office boy.

At aged 18, I was conscripted into the Australian Army to complete my “National Service”; at aged 18, George was conscripted into the RAF to complete his ‘National Service’.

This will be a good time to stop. There’s considerably more that I intend to relate. I might finish with one more, perhaps two posts on this subject.

Typically of me,  I’ll probably wander off on a different course, hopefully to join up and make sense with the final episode.


FOOTNOTE: Barking Abbey Grammar School is no more. In 1970 Barking Abbey was merged with; now take a deep breath; Park Modern Secondary School. It became what is called a ‘Sports College’, for some reason or other it became more important to replace grammar with  sport. Park Modern Secondary School when I was a ‘student’ was split/segregated, there was approximately 400 girls on one side and 400 boys on the other. Now there are over 2000 students/sportsmen & women in the one establishment.



Three photographs courtesy Google Earth. The top two are as I remember it, the main entrance; which the students were not permitted to use. The boys school is to the left the girls to the right. The Headmasters office is the ground floor left. Nice bay windows. The lower picture shows some of the sports fields. There are many more buildings now, than were there in 1946 when I made my grand entrance.


35 thoughts on “The first bit…

  1. I made me a coffee and a snack, sat down . . . and barely had a sip before the post ended. False advertising, I say, leading with an implied promise of abundance — maybe even substance — and barely filling the spam of two minutes.

    . . . still, I look forward to the continuation . . .

    Liked by 2 people

    1. what do you expect from a doddering old man?

      Liked by 1 person

    2. . . . realistic promises . . .

      Liked by 1 person

    3. I just noticed, is that a typo or a deliberate effort to be humorous?

      Liked by 1 person

        1. You mean the spam of two minutes?

          Liked by 1 person

        2. yes . . . although it would have been great had I intentionally executed it.


        3. I have a confession,
          It was I! I went to the comments did a quick edit and changed the n to an m to be mischievous and to suck you in!
          Seems I was successful 👿 😈 🐻


        4. How British of you.

          I too edit comments, although I usually correct punctuation and spelling errors, not introduce them. I guess we’re imbued with differing character traits.

          Liked by 1 person

        5. Well my posts certainly need corrections in the punctuation department. Being an autodidact ( if we were taught at school it must have been when I was either asleep or absent that day) I never got around to teaching myself all the intricacies of dots and commas and such stuff. Couldn’t see the point.
          So if you feel the urge and wish to go back and correct the punctuation in all my posts, comments please, be my guest 😈 🐻 😀 😀 🐱 Don’t you just love the smileys ❓


        6. By the bye chum I’M ENGLISH

        7. I do clean up your comments on my site. Can’t do much about what you choose to write elsewhere.

          Liked by 1 person

        8. Thank you appreciated 🙂


        9. British, English . . . can’t tell the difference, really. Besides, by your own admission, you were not overly schooled. For all I know, your understanding of geography might not be up to snuff. You could be Irish, for all I — or you — know.

          Liked by 1 person

        10. Geography never appealed to me, only history.. My maternal great grandfather was Irish, apparently he was blind and played the violin he probably called it a fiddle. I was actually born in the attic where he lived within the sound of the Bow Bells which kind of makes me an Irish Cockney of sorts, and if thats confused you more GOOD 😀


  2. And the point of this is….? You do ramble don’t you.

    Wasn’t someone a choir boy at St. Margaret’s too? A family member. We have a bit of history of this church, marriage of gt. grandparents. Of course Capt. Cook was married there too.

    By the way, I’m about to be Elizabeth Cook at Capt.Cook’s cottage in Melbourne’s Fitzroy Gardens (volunteer).



    1. I ramble intentionally; you being English (sort of I know you did most of your schooling here) you could quite possibly work out where I’m heading, I’d appreciate any thoughts that might give the game away to be emailed me rather than as a comment, I hate the idea of censorship 🙂
      Neither Sonny or I were church choir material. I did make mention of Elizabeth Betts marriage to Lt James Cook as he then was. Her father was a publican in the East End. I used to give all this info out when I was a volunteer guide at the ANMM for some years.
      Up date on my health, seems I now have bowel cancer and a wonky ticker, have to go about the cancer o Thursday


  3. I gather there will be a point to this …… 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes indeed might take a while but I’m determined to get there. In fact I’ve started on episode 2
      I have the title all set up
      “Bit number two”
      How’s that for a great start? 😈

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Fabulous! Only another five hundred words to go …


  4. You really mustn’t disparage your codswallop, Brian. It’s not really all that bad 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Go to the top of th list as Number 1 follower! 😀 🐻

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Another April baby! Mine’s on the 8th.


    1. Another Aries 😀 I knew there was something special about you 😈


  6. what a delightful read – the missive and the comments.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Note the one from my sister! cazz1844. typical!


      1. Gosh, your sister really is old, isn’t she? Born in 1844, you must be proud of the old duck.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. This more than held my attention throughout.
    Tell me, why on earth the AUSTRALIAN Army?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My family emigrated to Australia in 1951, unfortunately for my brother, the first thing he had to do on arrival was to register for National Service. He turned 18 years the day we crossed the Equator. In ’53 when I reached 18 I had to register. Being English/British back then we were treated as Australians straight away, we did not even need passports to come here.
      Hopefully the rest of the saga will hold your attention too. It didn’t hold my sisters!

      Liked by 2 people

  8. This is wonderful, Brian. Bits of interesting history that all come together way on down the road. I love all the photos and the way you string it all together. 😊😺


  9. abushiestale 17/08/2017 — 00:02

    Holy mackerel. One minute you’re in a school in Dagenham, and the next minute your in the bloody Australian Army. I assume the intervening years are not worth mentioning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are the subject of “Bit number two” which I’m working on, so stop being picky! 😈 🐻


      1. abushiestale 17/08/2017 — 09:20

        Well just keep working on it. I must admit it’s a clever new twist on creating anticipation and drama


        1. Would you expect anything less ❓ 😀 😈


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Nan's Farm

A Journal Of Everyday Life

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