Down Memory Lane at Older Hill

Reproduced by kind permission of Milland News. First published in Milland News August 2015.

Down Memory Lane at Older Hill

Roger Lovett interviews Bob Dean, whose grandparents George and Margaret Watson lived at Older Hill, Redford, from the late 1930's up to the mid 1950's. Bob has been living in Australia for the past half a century but came back to Older Hill to visit his old haunts after 55 years. Roger asked him for his impressions and thoughts on how much he remembered from the 1950's. Bob hopes to return in three years' time: how much will Older Hill have changed by then?

Can you tell us how you came to be associated with Older Hill and Redford?

My late grandparents George Watson and Margaret Anne Nesbit Potts, were married at Waterhouses (Near Durham) in 1909, Pop was in the coal mine at Waterhouses and Nan’s father was the undermanager at the mine.

Pop had to attend to dewatering the site and other safety requirements during a miners strike. He was threatened by the coal miners as a scab and had to be escorted in and out of the mine by the police while the strike was on and even after it had ended. As a result he had a nervous breakdown and they decided to move to Older Hill, Redford.

Nan had an oil painting (I am told it was a Constable) that she sold to her family doctor and with the proceeds they bought Older Hill.

You now live in Sydney, Australia?

Yes, I migrated to Sydney in 1963, aged 18 as part of the assisted migration scheme to Australia. I only returned to the UK for the first time in July of 2013 (50 years later).

How long is it since you last visited Older Hill?

It was approximately 55 years since I was last there, Nan and Pop sold and moved away to Petersfield in about 1957 from memory. I am trying to get the exact date of when they sold the property for my records.

How much has the place changed?

Incredibly, not very much at all, when I came back and met with Rod Meikle and yourself and walked around the area, I was very surprised how little had actually changed, the old house was almost identical to when I was last there, how I remember it and from the pictures that the family had.

The road up to Older Hill was still the same, and in the same condition, I still recall Pop taking me for a ride in his horse drawn Sulky along the sand covered road.

The old front fence was no longer there and there had been some building work around the rear of the property. The old thunder box was no longer there and had been moved inside the house.

The old stepladder that was in place to get upstairs had been moved to allow a proper set of stairs to go in. The old holly bush was still outside the rear door and the sheds adjoining the house were still there. I felt as if I had been transported in time.

The old garage and Post Office at Redford were exactly the same, except for the modern cars. Inside the Post Office the large bins of wheat and bran were no longer there, otherwise it was if time had stood still.

How did your grandparents earn a living?

Pop had a horse and dray and a sulky, and along with being a common carrier, they also used to harvest the bracken and sold it for animal bedding. They grew their own vegetables and kept the normal farm animals, I recall they had a great gooseberry bush and a blackberry bush up the back yard. Nan’s gooseberry pies were just the best.

What are your fondest memories of Older Hill?

I have many pleasant memories of Older Hill, as I thought the world of my Nan although she was a hard woman by all accounts. When I returned in 2013, I talked to people who recalled Nan and Pop living there, and apparently Nan could be heard laying down the law all over Older Hill and down to Redford. No mean feat in days when they did not have any amplification equipment! But the scene I remember most clearly is captured by the photo where my Mum has a saucepan lid on her head and is sitting with Nan and Pop and Aunty and cousins.

How did they light the place at night?

There was no electricity or sewage when they owned it, so each night they would light up a kerosene lamp, and they would sit around and talk, or ask me to sing a song. When the kerosene ran out that was the time to go to bed.

You have a number of pictures that range from around the 1933 period onwards?

Yes, and I have supplied you with digital copies of those pictures. Please feel free to publish them, with the correct reference.

The Watson Family with Bob Dean in the foreground

The Watson Family with Bob Dean in the foreground

Older Hill circa 1950

Older Hill circa 1950

Bracken Rick

Bracken Rick

Jock the horse, Telegraph Hill, 1930's

Jock the horse, Telegraph Hill, 1930's