Interview with Irene Howard


Interview with Irene Howard


Irene Howard grew up in Salford and describes her life there before the war. During the war she worked in a factory and as a fire-watcher before being called up. She served as an Air Raid Precaution Warden. She describes being bombed at home, trapped and rescued, during the Manchester Blitz in December 1940. She describes the death of her first boyfriend, how she met her husband, the birth of their first child and their eventual move to Lincolnshire.




Temporal Coverage





00:55:59 audio recording


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CH: This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is Cathie Hewitt. The interviewee is Mrs Irene Howard. The interview is taking place at Mrs Howard’s home in Coleby, Lincolnshire on the 12th of January 2017. Also present is Michelle Nunn. Okay. Thank you Irene for agreeing to be interviewed. Perhaps you could give me some background information of when and where you were born and carry on from there?
IH: Right. My name was Irene Green when I was born. I was born on 26th of September in 1925 and we lived in 10 Tarbuck Street, Salford 5, we lived and I was the youngest of quite a large family. My mother, she didn’t work ‘cause she had a lot to look after but my father did. He worked for the Salford Corporation. He had a barge drawn by horse that he used to bring home if he was near us at dinnertime. He’d [start?] the farmers to, you know to pick the produce up for Salford Corporation where the horse and carts used to be waiting for them to take them into towns you see. That’s what me dad did and of course you see I had all the, about four or five sisters altogether and of course I’d been a bridesmaid quite a few times for each one or the other you know. The thing was that when I was born our Lily, that’s the one that passed away at thirty two, she was twenty one so she was quite disgusted with mother, having a baby when I’m twenty one, but mum said, ‘She spoiled you’ she said ‘She dressed you up like a doll.' So I always had decent clothes and I got quite, I think that’s why I’m a bit snooty you know because of it ‘cause you’re really in the streets, you see, you know these side streets, you see they were small streets that had twelve houses, six either side. They came off a long street, you know called Regent Street. They all had different names, these streets and they had black walls at the bottom. That sort of streets they were. We had a wide back entries so they could come down to empty the dustbins, the men, you see, so therefore what’s the name, we lived in this house and it had gas mantles. That’s all you were had to see. Nothing else. And we used to have a radio what had a accumulator attached to it, you see and you used to have to take it to go and get it charged. Be careful not to get any acid on yourself. This is what they used to say, me mam and dad and of course me dad was very strict. We all had to sit properly at the table for meals. You weren’t allowed to have them anywhere else and if you didn’t get on with your meal instead of messing about with it you got told off to eat it. You’d better eat it up because you’ll get it again and he wouldn’t but that’s what he used to threaten with. And anyway he was a very good father because at weekends when he was not on the barge he took over the meals. He cooked all the meals for mam. He said mam cooked ‘em all week she needed a rest so with whatsisname he used to get up and cook and he knew every step on the stairs ready for your breakfast. He’d have the bacon cooked, hanging on a toasting thing what he made, the tongue and he hung it on the thing against the fire so the toast was made. He used to put the bacon, put your plate, you know, these thick plates we had on them days on the thing that was holding it and put the egg on and the bacon used to drip on to the egg to cook. Oh it was beautiful. Never tasted it since. But he always knew which step was coming downstairs but you was always made to go to the sink even though it was cold water. Get your hands and face washed and your hair done. Then you were allowed to come to the table for your breakfast. That was me dad. That’s what he did. And then he used to cook all the dinner. Roast beef and all that we had, and Yorkshire pudding but we always had us Yorkshire pudding first, on its own, and a bit of salt on, a bit of sugar on it. Yeah. That’s how we had our Yorkshire pudding and then you had your main meal you know and then, dad would bake. He used to make apple, always a plate pies. There was apple pie, there was custard pie, there was a current pie and a jam pie. Jam tart as they call them now and so he did all that and we used to have the apple pie with custard for the sweet after. But he did all the cooking and our girls had to you know take turns to you know do all the washing up. That was mam’s time off ‘cause he said 'She’s looked after you all week, and cooked your, and everything.' He said 'Her time to have a rest.' Yeah. He always did that. Yeah, he was a marvellous father and I was spoilt by him even though he had the others. He used to take me to see my Aunt Ada on bank holidays. I had to be all dressed up. Me dad used to put his suit on and have a white stiff front you know underneath like they used to have years ago and his whatsit this like hat he had. Not trilbies, they were called something else. Anyway, we used to go on the tram ‘cause it was trams then. We’d go all the way to Brant Broughton[?]. That’s what it was called in that there. This aunt of mine, well it was me dad’s, one of me dad’s sisters, she had a shop on the corner opposite Strangeways prison, she did. It was fruit side one and all groceries the other and of course we used to, we used to go there and stay with Aunt Ada for a few days, well for a few hours rather, with Uncle Herbert and I think, I always thought she gave me dad a bit of money to have a drink [laughs]. I’m sure she did because when we came home we used to always stop before we come on the tram. He used to call in on this pub to go and have a pint and it was funny really. And I had to stand outside with a lemonade and, ‘If any man spoke to you, shout me.' You know, that was it then, them days. Which you did and I used to wear, always wore a hat. Like a straw bonnet affair and you see when I was a bit older it was like a boater we had. Velour hat. And of course this day it rained and it was a white hat and it blew off my head [laughs] and I was crying with my hat wet so me dad played hell with me mam when he got home ‘cause she didn’t put my elastic underneath it, not that I liked the elastic but that was it, you see and the couple that was over, the governor and that over Strangeways prison then, their daughter was the same age as me and she had some beautiful clothes. I mean she used to give them to my Aunt Ada to send for me, you know, and that sort of thing. That’s how we used to do, well you know until me dad passed away in 1936. He was only sixty one. He had a stroke but they didn’t, able to do things like they are today. He had it at work and so of course me dad was you know going about with a walking stick and that and so we had to manage ‘cause we had to pay doctors’ bills then ‘cause I used to go and pay it for me mam. A shilling a week. Go to the receptionist at the doctors and give her a card and she signed it and took the shilling and that’s how she paid for the doctor, me mam. And I’ll tell you what’s the name used to sit near the door because he made stools. Big stools to sit on. We had four and they used to stand in a recess ‘cause there were too many chairs, couldn’t get around the table. So he made these stools and two of them sat on them and I had to stand between me mam and dad at the table because I was the youngest and that you see and that’s how they did. They both had their rocking chair. Me mam’s was a black one and it was like low and she used to sit in that and me dad sat in one with arms and it was that side and me mam was this side of the table and so of course with what’s ‘is name that’s how I lived and as I say the front room was the posh room. You weren’t allowed in it unless there was a wedding and then of course we had a gate-leg table in the middle and you wound an handle and it opened and you put a piece inside it you know then mam used to bring out a white chenille cloth and all that sort of thing and then a neighbour, somebody she was friendly with would come and get the meal ready if it was a wedding you see and then all the neighbours would come in to wish the couple with a drink, you know, sherry or whatever. And that’s how we did in the front room. And our Lily wanted a sewing machine so mam bought, you know saved up money and they got it. It was a Singer sewing machine that had the lid and [?] that’s how it was and that was under the window and of course you see when me dad died the sons stayed up all night you know while he was laid in his coffin. Yeah. I don’t know what law that was but that’s how they always did ‘cause they’d put white blinds down your windows, upstairs and down, and then put curtain, like white sheets they were round and the coffin used to sit in the front room you see so you could see him and then they’d put the lid on when it was time for the funeral. When it was the funeral he had a horse and coaches in them days. There were four black horses for the hearse and then there was four coaches after, you know. And the neighbours used to collect, somebody’d died in the street and they’d get, buy a cross and it would hang up at the end of the street on the wall for our neighbours all to see it and that used to hang at the back of the hearse, you know, where it was whatsit, it was all glass you see and they used to hang it at the back. The other wreaths would sit on the top of the coffin, you know on top of the roof of the hearse and that was his funeral. I’ve got, the bill’s in there. I could show it you because it was only about five pounds summat, you know. That’s where it is today. Yeah I found it. I meant to tell you. Yeah.

Of course as I grew up to go to school in them days. You didn’t have nursery schools or things like that you just went straight to school. The school was in the next street sort of thing because it became a warden centre you see, in the war and that’s where I used to go to school. Just around the corner, you see. I went there 'til I was eleven and then I went to Tatton Road School to finish until I was fourteen and as I say I was fourteen one day and then on the Monday I went to work at Goldsworthy’s you see. It was an emery place. ‘Cause my brother worked there. My eldest brother, our Bill and he what’s the name, he was the maintenance man at this place and so of course he had got me a job there. That’s how I come to work and I worked from Monday morning to Saturday dinnertime for ten shilling a week. That’s what you got and as I say school was very nice. The little, what they called Saint er no, Regent Street School where I first went the headmistress was very kind and if a child couldn’t come to school ‘cause they’d got no shoes she would take them up the road and buy them a pair of shoes and threaten them if their mother dared to pawn them. That’s what it was and the shoes was only about a shilling or something. They were cheap little black shoes she bought them to make sure they came to school. Yeah ‘cause people used to help them out ‘cause the father probably couldn’t get a job and the mother didn’t work in them days. No mothers went to work when I was young. They were all at home, you see and that’s how it used to be and they used to be, down our back entry there used to be a bookies where they had a [?] who stood outside and if someone saw the Ds, as they called them, coming down Regent Street they’d warn him and you see the bookie would disappear, shut all up and sometimes they’d end up in our house. Me mam said, she used to tell me about this. One day he managed to run across to my Aunt Lena ‘cause me mam’s sister lived opposite and of course she put my Uncle Jess’s dinner on the table and he ran and sat there and sat there with it and the Ds were running wondering where he’d gone and went through our house, of course there weren’t anybody there, they went across the road and my Aunt Lena said, ‘What are you doing in here? Here’s my husband’s having his dinner,’ she said. She started on him. Anyway, he said, ‘I’m very sorry Mrs,’ and off they went and that was the bookie sat there, you know, making out he was eating Uncle Jess’s dinner. Honestly, some of the things they did, you know you have to laugh about it really, you know. Things that, you know, you won’t see today anymore and that was how it used to be you know [laugh] and that and as I say we had a good laugh because my sisters were all good. I had one birthday I had a new dress for every day because they were only about a shilling. They were cotton dresses, you know and then I used to have little white socks and black patent ankle straps. That’s what we had and that and as I said our Lily was always dressing me up you know and that and I used to have a posh, a coat on with a little velvet collar but I never like velvet dresses ‘cause me mam used to have a lady that used to make dresses you see and me Aunt Lena living opposite she had a daughter. She was a little bit older than me our Elsie and she whats the name she used to, we used to have to both had to walk up to see this lady to get measured for a dress, a special dress but I never liked velvet. Oh I hated velvet. Didn’t like touching it, you know, so I never got a velvet dress because I refused to have one you see ‘cause I used to say to me mam I don’t like and our Lily used to say if she doesn’t like one mother let it be you see as if she was my mother and yet she created when I was born ‘cause she gave me my name because we had, well she was me mam’s cousin, not mine. She used to be always at our house ‘cause her mother was me mam’s aunt. She was a little old lady used to come with her shawl on every day from up where Salford station was. She lived up there and she used to walk down to our house and she always sat in a chair behind the back door ‘cause we had to, we used the back door more than any and she used to sit there in between that door and the sink. She never sat anywhere else and she had, you know, her hair done up in a bun. And she must have been old. Her name was Aunt Charlotte we called which was her name. Well her daughter used to be always be at our house, you see. She had a son and a daughter. And I tell you, well her son came because he used to be a coal, had a coal lorry bringing us coal and I’ll tell you our Alice said when I was born she said, ‘Oh what do you think mother if our Sal,’ that was me mam’s name, they always called her Sal, ‘Gives the baby your name?’ Well she hit the roof. Yeah. I’d never heard her go on before so much till mam was telling me how she shouted and went on. She said, ‘You’ll not call that girl that name,’ she said. Now our Alice said, ‘She could be called Lottie.’ ‘No way,' she said, ‘is she being called that terrible name.’ She said, ‘So there.’ She said, ‘You can forget it.’ So then our Lily comes home from service ‘cause she used to come at weekends. She was at an hotel and she come in and she, she said, ‘Oh mam,’ she said, ‘We’ll call her Irene.’ She said, ‘Oh, I’ve never heard that name.’ She said, ‘Well no, it’s all the rage now. It’s for peace.’ And that’s how I got my name [laughs]. Yeah. Yeah I was nearly called that you know. Yeah when the war broke out as you know 1939, September 3rd and what’s ‘is name you see our Bett lived opposite then. She got Aunt Lena’s house opposite and Aunt Lena had passed on and anyway you see she got married in 1935 our Bett did and he paid for us to have the electric in you see and then our Nellie came up with this here beautiful flakestone bowl for mam you know and that and of course you see then I had to go to work and I went to work at Goldsworthy’s where they made sandpaper and emery paper and it had a square roof, it did, at the top. Well, when we were there we had to do fire service at weekends so we always had it on a Sunday and the men used to do it on a Monday all day er Saturday all day. That’s how we did and we had to go up on that roof and if any incendiaries, if there was an air raid on or incendiaries were dropping we had to go and race and damp ‘em down you see with sandbags or get the stirrup pump and that’s how it came about and of course you see when I got my papers, calling up papers, me mam was in a right state. She’d never heard of women getting called up. I said, ‘Well it’s different today mam.’ So I had to go to the recruiting centre with my letter to prove and so he said, ‘What had you thought about?’ And I said, ‘Well I don’t mind the army, or the RAF,’ I said, ‘But I won’t go in the navy because,’ I said, ‘I can’t swim.' You know, I said not that I’d be wanting to go to swim but I just don’t want it you see. So he said, ‘That’s fair enough.' He said, ‘Have you got any independent relatives that you have to look after?’ And I said, ‘Me mother.' ‘Oh well you can’t go in one of the forces,’ he said. I looked at him. I said, ‘Why?' He said, ‘Well, we don’t take, we don’t like to take people away from any parent that’s left,' he said, ‘And I assume your mam must be getting on.’ I said, ‘She is.’ So he said, ‘Well you’ll have to go in to the civil defence.' So he said, ‘What would you like to do?’ So I said 'Alright then. I’ll go in as a warden.' You know, an ARP Warden and that’s one of the letters thanking me, you know, for being in it and having to be out when an air raid was on but I was fortunate because living in Old Trafford then you see with what’s ‘is name I could look at staying in my own street to keep my eye on me mam and that’s how it came about then and so of course I was an ARP Warden. We had a uniform and everything of navy blue. A blue shirt and a tie and everything you know because we had parades you see and that were the Home Guard and that you know and so we used to have to be there with the sandbags at the corner of the street and the stirrup pump and then whatsit but the men were very good to me. I was the only woman in it and the men were very good. They taught me how to play darts in my spare time and that’s how I come to play darts. Through these men. And one of them used to always come around to see if I was alright when there was a raid on. I was managing you know to get down the street and put a sandbag on it or if it got to be a bit more to get the stirrup pump and that and do in the night.
CH: It was quite dangerous what you were doing then?
IH: Yeah. It, well it says there about danger you know and all that but you don’t think of that when you’re young. All you think of you’re doing a job for your country. Standing up for your country against flaming Hitler, you see but the other story’s better when I, when we got the Blitz ’cause no what’s its went. No sirens went on that Sunday night.
CH: Were you still working as an ARP Warden then?
IH: Oh yes you still had to go to work oh yeah. And that’s how you come to have to help over the factory to go up on the roof to put fires out. We did you know ‘cause you were that and that that was your job instead of racing off to my depot when it come on in the daytime I had to attend to the factory and do, you know. Do that you see, we did. When I think I can’t climb up one step now and I used to have to be up on the roof [laughs] but you could see for miles all around Manchester and everywhere you see and that and as I say on the night that the Blitz came it was near Christmas, 21st of December and we’d just finished us tea of a Sunday. Well I was just clearing the table ‘cause as I say we always had to sit at a table. Me mam was just washing up the few pots and all of a sudden I thought that sounds like a plane. So I thought I’d carry on. Anyway, all of a sudden bump. Oh I thought, ‘Oh my God.' I said to me mam, I said, ‘Here’s the enemy.' She said, ‘What’s that?’ I said, ‘I know the sirens haven’t gone' I said 'But they’re we are. They’re on us,’ which they did. We got no siren so we couldn’t get to the shelter ‘cause we had to come out of there to get right up to the top road you see ‘cause they were going to build flats and when the war started they turned them into underground shelters. This is what it was and so therefore I said, ‘there’s no good us going out mam,’ ‘cause we used to go most nights ‘cause they were very good the council ‘cause they gave us bunks to sleep on you see you know they’d fasten them together because the first time they put them in people turned them over [laughs] turned over so we used to have a laugh in the shelters you know and so of course what’s the name they fastened them together then. It was alright. Mam used to get on the bottom one and I used to climb on the top one you see and our neighbour lived across the road, Nora. She had two little boys. Her husband worked away a lot you see and she always called me mam Granny Green which of course was our name and she had Tony and John you see, so of course on the night of the Blitz I said to me mam, ‘Well I’ll go under the table. It might be safe there,’ and I said, ‘You sit in the coal house,’ which was under the stairs, on the chair. I said, ‘At least it might help.’ Well we sat there and the bombs was coming down oh it was terrible. Really, really terrible. I kept thinking, ‘Oh God has it got my name on it?’ You know. You did all these things. I said to me mam, ‘I can’t stop under here mam,’ I said, ‘I can smell burning.' So she said, ‘You can? I said, ‘Yeah. Come on,‘ I said, ‘We’ll sit on the stairs.’ Well when I sat on the stairs I smelt it more so I crept up the stairs and looked and I thought, ‘Oh my God. The roof’s on fire.’ It was incendiaries all on the roofs and then of course you see as we sat there all of a sudden the flipping house shook as if it was coming on top of us and it was an oil bomb been thrown out of a plane and it dropped next door it did and of course it shook the house. It was terrible. All the windows shot out. I said to me mam, ‘Oh God.’ We prayed, I’ll tell you. Ever so hard. We thought this is our end. We did. Me mam said, ‘You climb up that machine, sewing machine on the window and you try and get out of that window and don’t cut yourself.’ I said, ‘What are you going to do?’ She said, ‘Stop here, I’ve had my life.’ I said, ‘No,’ I said, ‘If you’re stopping here I stop here.' I said, ‘If we go,’ [tearful] sorry. I said, ‘We go together,’ and that so anyway we’re there and then we could hear the others shouting in the street, ‘Please help us. Help us,’ you know and we heard some men and I thought, ‘Oh God shall I get this door open,’ So I got the axe and was banging on the door because with the bomb it had lodged the door and it wouldn’t open and that so of course I kept banging and somebody shouted, ‘Is somebody there?’ So I said, ‘Yes it’s me and me mother,’ I said, ‘And we can’t get the door open to get out,’ I said, ‘And we’re on fire upstairs.’ He said, ‘Yes, we know lass’ he said, 'Anyway, we’ll try this side hammering and you bang your side with that hammer,’ and that was how I got the door open you see. Well, we come out and there was Nora standing there with the two children shouting, ‘Granny Green. Where are you Granny Green?’ ’Cause we used to go to the shelter together so of course I said, ‘We’re here Nora, we’re alright.’ So of course when we got outside I thought, ‘Oh God this must be hell,’ you know, when you saw the blazing and all the smell and that from the bombs that was coming down so I picked up little’en, her little boy Johnny and put him under my coat. Me mam has her shawl on you see. They wore shawls then and she had, Nora had Tony, the one a bit bigger and so we set off to get up to the shelters while it was bombing you see ‘cause we didn’t know any other and the smell was terrible you know what they put in the bombs and all we could hear was the fella saying, different fellas shouting, wardens, ‘Keep against the wall.’ You had to come out of our street, go over Regent Street and up another little street to get to the main road so of course we kept against the wall. We couldn’t go fast anyway because I had got Johnny, me mam wasn’t very good on her legs and she, Nora had got Tony so I crept along the walls like that till we got to the main road and I thought oh God look at it. All the blazing you know so we tried to keep the kids away from it. We crossed the road finally and there was like a wooden board, you know where they put the wood up to stop people going in and there was so much gravel on the floor and then the pavement come so of course when we just got that side and we stopped for a breath to get me breath, well me mam did anyway and all of a sudden Nora fainted. I thought, ‘Oh my God what am I going to do?’ So I grabbed Tony, pushed him under me mam’s shawl and she kept him under her shawl and I thought well I can’t pick her up. I can’t help her and all of a sudden a fella, it must have been God. This fella come running up in a uniform I think he must have been a bus driver or something he said, ‘Don’t worry lass,’ he said, ‘I’ll take her to sick bay,’ and he picked her up and he said, ‘Whatever you do don’t move.’ I looked at him and said, ‘Don’t move?’ ‘No. No, don’t move and keep them children close to you. Don’t let ‘em say anything. Just stay there like statues,’ he said, ‘Else they’ll shoot ya’ I said. ‘You what?’ I said, ‘We haven’t been invaded have we?’ And then the fella went running off with Nora you see and I thought, ‘My God, they must have come down in parachutes.’ You know, you didn’t know what to think. So I said to mam, ‘Don’t say anything mam. Just let us stand here like statues and keep Tony hidden and I’ll keep Johnny hidden.’ Well, all of a sudden I looked up the road and I thought what on earth’s this coming ‘cause I’d never seen a plane as low as that and it was one of their planes and it had been hit and it was on fire you know near the, in between it must have been because the pilot was trying to get it off the floor. This was what he was trying to do. Of course the one who was shooting was a rear gunner. He was going berserk with the machine gun. He was spinning it one way and then another. Well bullets were falling on the pavement in front of us and I thought oh my god we’re going to be, you know, shot. That we’ve got out of the house. We’ve come all this way up here. Now it’s going to be our end against this barrier. Anyway, we kept still and of course the fella kept trying to get his plane up. Mind you he didn’t because it ended up in the cotton mill that was blazing what they’d bombed it got so far and of course it dived in there and that was it. But oh, so of course then we’re still stood there and the fella come running back. He said, ‘You’re alright?’ And I said, ‘Yes, thank you.’ I said, ‘How did you know?’ ‘Well I was further up the road,' he said, ‘Duck, I left my bus up there blazing,’ he said and, ‘Therefore' he said 'I came running down to get to the shelter myself when I saw the predicament you were in.’ I never knew the man. I never knew his name even to thank him. I kept saying, ‘Oh thanks ever so much. You saved us,’ which he did really because we could have all been shot and then of course he said, ‘Come on, I’ll take the kiddies to their mother in the sick bay.’ So he took the two kids, two little boys to their mam and then me and me mam, got round and as we got down into the shelter this other sister Emily that lived near us she fainted ‘cause she thought we’d been killed ‘cause somebody had said our street had gone up which of course it did and that was how it went and then of course then they brought us a cup of tea. The WRVS, they were in there and that so of course when we came out when the all clear went I came out to devastation. Yeah. When the all clear went we came out the shelter to devastation. Houses and probably looked like, I don’t know. You thought they’d all been knocked over like dominoes and so of course we got to our street, we got to our door and of course it had blown open and all that. The windows was all out and it was still burning. They couldn’t get enough water in Salford you see to get them out and anyway me mam burst in to tears and I was hugging her, kissing her ‘cause I was in tears ‘cause when you see your home gone that like and the beautiful furniture you had and that you see and then Mrs Leatherbarrow that lived next door she come up and then she saw hers and her and mum clung on together ‘cause they’ve been there all these years together and they were crying so I said shall we go around the back and see if we can get in any way there? So me mam and Mrs Leatherbarrow walked together and I walked behind and when we got in to the entry I looked. I said, ‘Oh we’re not going to get in,’ I said, '‘cause it looks like the ceilings already come down in the kitchen,’ ‘cause the kitchens was at the back. Well opposite, the street opposite weren’t too bad. Yes, it had a coal thing in it [Johnny Perrin’s] old coal place. You’d have thought it would have gone up with that you know next door but it didn’t and of course these two ladies, they were catholic ladies, they were very nice, really ladies. Two Miss Quigley’s they were and they had this beautiful house there and our [Ida?] got their house you see and they come out and they were saying how sorry they were to mam and Mrs Leatherbarrow. ‘We’re going to make you a cup of tea and you’re coming in to have a drop of brandy,’ which I thought was lovely of them. So I just said, you know, ‘I’ll be alright.’ She said, ‘You can come in my dear,’ she said, ‘As well, if you like,’ she said, ‘And we’ll make you a cup of tea.’ Anyway, they were talking and all of a sudden Mrs Leatherbarrow, you didn’t hear women swear, she started off and I thought, ‘Who’s she shouting at?’ and it was Hitler she was going on about and I looked at her and she said 'If I get so and so I’ll wring his neck with my bare hands.' I said, ‘What’s the matter?’ She said, ‘Look,’ and when I looked her Christmas puddings were stuck to the wall outside [laughs] and they were just there stuck like that. I think it was three or four. The plate, the basin was smashed on the floor. The blast of the bomb had shot 'em out the bloody kitchen and they’d stuck on the wall in the entry. Well I started laughing. I couldn’t help it but then of course, we all laughed then. It seemed [it was coming up] through the tears but oh it was funny. I’ll never forget seeing them Christmas puddings. It was if they’d been thrown 'em at the wall and it stuck there, you know well she did and surely if she’d spotted him she’d have gone for him and wrung his neck. She would honest to God, when she turned around, I never noticed the puddings when I first went down the entry in our house and hers and I tell you we were busy looking if we could get in the back way, you know, like you do, thinking well I might rescue something and so of course that’s what happened, she’d spun around and spotted 'em. Well she, of course it broke it then. We was all laughing ‘cause it did, they did look funny and that’s what our Michelle meant, because you know, it was so funny seeing Christmas puddings pinned to a wall you know and of course [laugh] we started laughing and that helped them all to laugh. Well me mam and Mrs Leatherbarrow and the two Quigley ladies and that. We tried to get in at the back but the ceiling upstairs had come down on the, you know on to the bottom and that so we could have got in but you’d be stood on a lot of rubble. You’d have to be careful. And well we did get in me and our Emily and our Emily stood on one side and she passed me some pots and things to save but I wish we’d gone and tried to get in the front. Anyway, I thought when we went home I thought I’ve got to get me mam something else you know I’m saying to myself. I thought I’ll get in. I’ll go around the front so of course I went around the front. People were saying, ‘You can’t go there.’ I said, ‘I can,’ I said, ‘It’s our house,’ I said to this fella ’cause it was our house after all whether it was on fire or not. He said, ‘You’ll get burned.' I said, ‘I won’t. Clear off,’ I said. I was that mad. I was only, I know mam would have said I was rude and played hell but anyway, I ran in, got myself on the table in the middle and I thought, ‘Oh I’ll have to get her that flakestone bowl,’ so I got it, I hooked it off the thing but I didn’t dare take the rose down because I didn’t know if the ceiling would come down on me you see so I thought I’ve got a flakestone bowl with the chains in it and that mirror and that mirror was in the front room yes yeah ever since I was a little girl. Must be a hundred years old or more. And I know that the flakestone bowl was bought in 1935 but I don’t know whether I can get it out for you. It’s in the what’s the name to show you. If you come with me in my bedroom.
[recorder paused]
So therefore after I got these things for me mam she come around you see at the front, her and Mrs [Leatherbarrow] and I said, 'Look mam, I’ve got you these,’ and she said, ‘Oh bless you.’ I said, ‘Well you’ve got to have some 'at, mam,’ I said, ‘Out of it.’ Anyway then my sister who lived in Old Trafford she came all the way from Old Trafford ‘cause she’d been told that Salford had caught it, you know. They hadn’t. So our Bett came and she’d got a baby ‘cause our Valerie was born on the Friday as the war broke out on the Sunday so she’d got our Valerie see. She’s still living, our Valerie. I’ve been to see her this last year. Our Simon took me. I’d never been before so I’ve not seen them for, getting on for over seventy years and ‘cause her brother had turned up one day on a motorbike, our Jamie and he went over to number 8 where I lived when we first moved in you see as a family then and I moved in number 8 you see and he was at number 8 looking all around and Ann next door, she said, ‘Can I help you?’ And he said ‘Yes, I’m looking for my Auntie Irene.’ She said, ‘Oh she don’t live here now,’ she said, ‘Since your Uncle Stan died,’ she said, ‘She lives over there at number 4.’ Well Ann, it was a bank holiday and Ann shouted over the road, ‘Rene you’ve got a visitor.’ ‘Oh,’ I said, ‘Have I?’ ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘It’s your Jamie.’ Well for a minute I couldn’t think who. I thought, ‘Who’s our Jamie?’ You know and of course when he put his head around the corner he said, ‘Oh Auntie Irene' and we were both there daft as anything but you can’t help it can you when you haven’t seen anybody for all them years and it was like when our Simon took me to see our Valerie ‘cause he wanted to go to Bolton about a bike, ‘cause he’s bike mad our Simon, and anyway he took us and our [Anita?] was with us ‘cause she’d lost Keith you see[?] and so of course when we found our Valerie’s you know at Hyde and it was up a slope so he left the car down and he said, ‘I’ll go and knock on the door and see if she’s in.’ 'Cause she didn’t know we was coming. So he went and knocked on the door and she come out and she said, ‘Yes,’ ‘cause she didn’t know our Simon you see. So he said, ‘I’ve brought your Auntie Irene to see you.’ ‘What? Where is she? Where is she?’ And he said, ‘Hang on a minute,’ he said, ‘She can’t walk up here,’ he said, ‘She’s had an accident.’ ‘What sort of?’ He said, ‘Well it’s her leg’ he said. So he said, ‘I’ll bring her up in the car.’ ‘Well I’ll get my shoes on.’ She’d been in the house without her shoes you see and so of course she had some steps. Anyway, they helped me up the steps so we had a lovely afternoon you see of course. And that’s when we told her that our Anita’s husband had died, that’s when [unclear] I said it was lovely to see you and she writes to me now, our Valerie and I mean she’s getting on because she was born in ’39 you know when the war, well it came two days after. Yeah. She did ‘cause our Bett [interrupted].
CH: You were saying that she turned up at the house when it had been bombed.
IH: No.
CH: Your sister.
IH: Oh yes. Our Bett. Yeah. She came from Old Trafford where she lived and she turned up. She said, ‘Where are you mam?’ I said, ‘We’re here.’ She said, ‘Come on, you’re coming to stay with us.’ She said, ‘You’ve got nowhere to go, you’ll have to go back to the shelter to sleep,’ which we would have had to have done ‘cause nobody, we had nowhere to go. The other people didn’t and so we went to live at our Betts at number 14 Hamilton Street. It’s one [unclear] of these, on one of mam’s papers, that was it 'cause that’s where we went to stay you see ‘cause she’d got our Valerie as a baby and her husband in a three bedroom so we went and stayed there. Well, I had another sister that lived in Little Hamilton Street. Our Edie. She was the eldest one. Well a landmine came down, ‘cause we was in our Bett’s shelters, and it was dressed like a man, this landmine. And our Jim, our Bett’s husband thought it was and he said, ‘I’ll have that,’ so and so and he ran out the shelter and as he did do it landed on where our Edie lived just in the next little street what was called Little Hamilton Street. The one we were in was big Hamilton Street. And it tied itself around a chimney and blew up. So their street had had it you see and Jim felt the vibration but they had thought it was a fella, a German coming down, you see, with a parachute and it was dressed as a fella. It was a landmine. Yeah.
[recorder paused]
CH: Okay.
IH: Yeah. So of course therefore you see with what’sit we went to live with our Bett in Hamilton Street and then our Edie and her husband and sister and all their, they had to come and live with us as well ‘cause when that landmine hit it cleared their street. A small street called, small, Little Hamilton Street and therefore we’re what’s its name you see so we all had to live together in our Bett’s which was good that she had room for us and that you see. Anyway, then our Nellie came because she’d been her husband was the one that sent them Christmas cards to us, Robert and she’d I can’t think where she’d been staying. She’d been staying with somebody. She had a little boy, Harold. He was born the day after my birthday in September as the war was broke out and anyway she what’s the name so of course she managed to get this house in Old Trafford not far from our Bett’s it was, you know, and it was 2 Barrett Street and the street that Laurie[?] was born in you see and because what’s the name we lived there and she was on shift work our Nellie did, working for the force, I can’t remember what she did, it was something to do with the forces anyway. That’s what she did. Well her husband was called up the day war broke because he was in the territorials so he went. He went before Harold was born and he never saw that child. When he came back he was five years old, Harold was ‘cause I used to look after him when our Nellie was on shifts. My hours were different than hers so when I was at work she had him and then me mam had him for the short period ‘cause we lived together you see. So of course when Robert came back home he wouldn’t have anything to do with him. ‘Send that man away mam. Send that man away. We don’t want him here.’ So our, poor Albert had a job to get, Robert rather, to get little Harold to accept him but that’s it, you see that’s what would have happened with a lot of little kiddies wouldn’t it because you see the parents, the father would be away and that would be it, you know. When you think about it. So of course we weren’t so bad then. We got, went to live in 2 Barrett Street, you see and that and that is just a field today. Our Simon had to go to Bolton. He wanted to see a bike. He’s nearly fifty you know, me grandson. Like Michelle. And he what’s the name, there that’s Michelle’s wedding up there. And he comes and looks after me and everything you know. Takes us out and all that and I’ve got into to all the bi-cycling things that he does on telly. Yeah. So that’s what we did and I tell you then we were put in for, my sister did it for her to get the money for her house and then she rang me up from Old Trafford when they come to live in here and she said, ‘Oh they’re paying out. You’d better send mam’s papers in and also put your own in to prove who you are,’ and I did and they all come back and it said sorry but you’re not the next of kin. Well who the hell was the next of kin? I mean there was only me and I put down you know my marriage licence I sent, and my birth certificate so we never got a penny of it.
CH: Your mother didn’t get anything either.
IH: No. Nothing. Because it was her papers I sent in ‘cause she’d passed away, me mam had, by the time they paid out. She’d passed away in 1948 and it was getting on to fifty something when they paid out so me mam never got a penny for a three bedroom beautiful house that she had. Yeah. And I mean if you look at it, it tells you how much she would have got. Eighty eight pound for a three bed house but we didn’t have any money you see with the war you see. So, and I think we got five pounds to buy clothes for me and her ‘cause all we had was what we stood up in. We got one or two clothes from the Red Cross that was really very nice and that ‘cause I always wore Deanna Durbin hats. I loved 'em. Oh I did. And I got a lovely three quarter coat off them and that and I had a, like a maroon dress I’d bought, I managed to get and I washed this coat and it come up beautiful. Well I was queen, I’ll tell you [laughs]. I used to put this coat on and me Deanna Durbin hat, me handbag and it was lovely.
Because you see my first boyfriend was killed in the war. He was a messenger boy when it started. Biking from where he lived up at the Crescent at er, near Salford Royal Hospital they lived ‘cause that nurses place there that was bombed you know, they was all killed. All the nurses in it and they got a plaque on the hospital wall with all the names on it and Jimmy lived up there. I never met his family ’cause we didn’t in them days. You didn’t go, you know. And I tell you from being, you know, what, I must have been fourteen and he was about sixteen. Course he was going from post to post with messages in the war when, you know, when the sirens went and so of course he got his calling up papers and he went into the Royal Wiltshire[?] Fusiliers, Jimmy did and we used to write letters to each other and of course then he came home on embarkation leave. Me mam left us in, mam never met him. She used to see him on the bike because Nora did. Nora used to say when Jimmy Splinters and her get married we shall have a great big do in this street. Always called him Jimmy Splinters and of course he came home on embarkation when we were living in Old Trafford at 2 Barrett Street and we went to see Honky Tonk at the Gaumont cemetery, cinema rather in what’sit, in Manchester we did and he said, ‘Oh I wish I could stay with you all the time.’ I said, ‘Like everything else lad,’ I said, ‘You’ve got to do, you’ve got to go.’ And he said, ‘I’ll write soon as I best know where I’m going.’ Well of course he ended up at Burma didn’t he? And then of course he got killed. So our Bett, er, our Michelle does a lot and she said, I said I wish I knew if he was buried ‘cause I always felt he might have been killed in the jungle and left there, you know. And I thought if I know he’s buried I’ll feel better about it ‘cause I still to this day go down to our church on Remembrance Day and put a cross for him you see but I let our little Georgia ‘cause the school comes as well. We have it in our church on the proper day, the 11th, and so of course our Jenny used to take it off me and go up when, you know when they used to put the cross, you know, put the wreath up and now our Georgia does it for me. Took it up, you see. So Christmas, not this Christmas gone but Christmas before, our Michelle said, ‘Oh nan,’ she said, ‘I can’t take you to Japan,’ she said, ‘I haven’t the money,’ she said, ‘But I’ve got this for you’ and she brought me the photograph of the cemetery where Jimmy is in. Would you like to see it? Just switch that off then.
[recorder pause]
I met my husband because he was stationed at Manchester you see at the time. On the Kings Road Barracks, that’s right, Kings Road Barracks and that’s how I met him you see ‘cause I met him through our Elsie, you see. My cousin. That was our [Nita’s?] godmother. She died at twenty five, you know, of rheumatic fever, our Elsie did. She never married. She was engaged. And then he died not long after. Her boyfriend. He didn’t want to live without her. He laid across the coffin. He didn’t want them to bury her in it. He really was in a state he was. Anyway, as I was saying that em, she introduced me to Stan and of course I didn’t take him home or anything and one night our Nellie came home and said, ‘there’s a good film on at the picture house.’ I can’t remember what they called it in Old Trafford. So I said, ‘oh.’ She said, ‘Shall we go?’ And so I said, ‘Oh I can do,’ ‘cause it was a night I told Stan I didn’t come out you see. You get found out you see and so therefore I go in with her to the pictures and I never saw him near the barracks ‘cause it was next, near to the pictures and of course we went in to see this picture and came walking out with our Nellie and he spotted me and he shouted so of course I looked around and our Nellie looked at me, ‘Who’s that?’ I said, ‘Just a soldier.’ I didn’t know what to say to her you see. And so she said, ‘Well you’d best go talk to him [unclear].’ You know what mam would be like.' So I said, ‘Alright, I’ll go and have a word with him.’ He said, ‘I thought you said you didn’t come out on this night.’ I said, ‘We don’t reckon to do,’ I said, ‘We reckon to do the washing,’ I said, ‘but it was our Nellie wanted us to go.’ So he said, ‘Oh alright then.’ So I said, ‘I’ll see you another night.’ So that was it. Of course you get a lecture then from an older sister don’t you? Honest to God. ‘You’re too young to be having boyfriends.’ I thought, well what wrong, harm is there, I said, ‘We’re not doing anything wrong.' I mean we only went to the pictures or something like that because we didn’t have any money hardly in them days. I mean I only got ten shillings a week and me mam used to take it and give you a shilling back and that’s all I had there. I used to give her that back sometimes and that but when you think about sometimes these things you know if you’ve got a bigger sister they want to boss you about and that, you know. And that’s how I met Stan. And then of course later on he used to come and see me mam and that, you know but me mam never wanted me to marry him. She’d have let me marry Jimmy because he lived where we did, Salford but she didn’t think it was right to come all this way out here to another place, another country, well it wasn’t another country but you know the older generation looked at it like that. Anyway, she did ‘cause she came for a weekend to see his mam and family near Waddington. Of course his mother was a, what was it, how do I say it? That’s not being recorded is it? Oh Christ I’d better not say it.
Other: You can say it mum.
IH: No, she used to go out with some of the airmen. Dad was there. His dad. Oh yeah because when they went out for a drink me mam was there with them you see and me mam was talking to the old, the old man was talking to her and anyway he said, ‘She thinks I’m bloody daft.’ He said, ‘She thinks I’m blind but I know what she’s up to,’ you see. Because she had two that didn’t belong to him but he accepted them [unclear]. Yeah. You know, that’s how it was. So of course that was awful in mam’s eyes so she didn’t want me to marry Stan and, ‘And if you go to live in Lincolnshire,’ she said, ‘Don’t you get like that.’ I said, ‘Mam I wouldn’t dream of it.’ She played hell because of that and that’s why she did. It was nothing against him himself. It was because of his mother and how she carried on, you know. Yeah. I mean I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe it you know that the old fella accepted it. I don’t think my father would have. Christ I don’t think so. Oh I couldn’t’ see me mam anyway. Because me Aunt Lena was a bit like her, me mam and there was another lady called Mrs Delaney. The three of them used to go out on a Sunday to the Regatta for a drink Sunday dinnertime ‘cause dad had done dinner and all that you see and they used to call them the three merry widows. Well they wasn’t really you see [laugh] ‘cause there was only Aunt Lena who hadn’t got Uncle Jess and that, you know, for year’s ‘cause she had about nine children me Aunt Lena and they’ve all gone, well they must have done. Must have all gone the same. Yeah. But you know when I think about it you know, you know she was quite alright with Stanley but I did tell her, I said no way will I go to Lincolnshire while my mother lives and that and of course Anita was born when mam was there at 2 Barrett Street, you see ‘cause I had her at home ‘cause I’ve got, I paid two guineas for the midwife, you know, in them days. Oh yeah. I’ve got the receipt in that box. Yeah. Two guineas. Paid the midwife for our Anita ‘cause that’s what you did in them days you see ‘cause if you went in hospital you hadn't the money to pay so you had them at home and you had a midwife come. Yeah. She was born on the Sunday. There’d been a thunderstorm the night before and mam said that’s what did it [laugh] ‘cause you see when I first started they said oh you’ll have it about the 12th of September. So anyway as time went on she kept popping down and seeing if, ‘What are you playing at? Are you keeping it?’ I said, ‘Yeah [laugh].’ Anyway, I didn’t. They got the dates wrong and she was born on the 29th and it was a Sunday and the night before you see, our Thomas, that was one of my sister’s sons ‘cause they used to come and stay with gran you see and he was all excited ‘cause he thought I would have it on his birthday the day before but it didn’t. She come on the day after. They used to pull her about on this stool and all sorts they did, our Margaret and our Thomas. Yeah. They were harmless [unclear] those two. Mam used to, when they were at Salford me mam used to give them their dinners you see while our Emily went to work ‘cause her husband was a brickie. I had two brother in laws that were bricklayers, our Betts husband and Tommy, our Emily’s and they didn’t work in the winter you know in them days when it was bad weather. They were off, out of work, you see. And so Jim went to Carborundum then down at Trafford Park and that and he was alright then, you see, but Tommy stayed as a brickie you see but they used to go and do what they called foreigners[?]. You know, they used to go in furnaces and things. They used to be emptied out and done. They’d have to go inside sweltering, sweltered they were when they let the fires out to repair them inside, you see. It was the only way they could do them. So I thought my God they used to have to take clean shirts with them because the shirts and things would be that wet you could have wrung them out, you know, when they were inside these things, furnaces sort of thing what they had to repair.
CH: Did you say your husband was in the forces?
IH: Oh yes. Yeah.
CH: Can you tell us a little about your life together when he was in the forces.
IH: Yeah well you see after we got married he, they got moved which is of course happens, you see and then of course he used, we used to have to write to each other then and he was up at the top of Scotland, Stan was, looking after the bombing they had to get these bombs on planes and all sorts ‘cause as I say it was called Mossban[?]. Well there’s no such place as Mossban so you see they must cut out all the names up there right in the top of Scotland. He said it was bitter. Bitter. The weather. And they used to sometimes have to sleep in tents up in Scotland. Yeah. Oh he said it was freezing and of course sometimes a bloody bomb would go off and kill soldiers and they had to go around picking the pieces up and he only told me it once he said, and I knew it was something because he didn’t sleep. He was tossing and turning and I knew there was something going on and I said to him next morning, I said, ‘What was the matter with you?’ ‘Oh nothing.’ ‘Yes there was,’ I said, ‘Because,’ I said, ‘You couldn’t sleep.’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I was never going to tell you but,’ he said, ‘That’s, these things happen up there,’ he said. ‘Many times the bombs go off. One of us is always blown to pieces,’ and they used to have to pick the pieces up to you know for them to bury them then you see. If the parents wanted them at home it was alright. They used to go home in a coffin. They never saw them. Otherwise they were buried up there. Right at the top of Scotland it was, you know. And I thought, God, it must have been terrible having to go picking up pieces mustn't it? When you think about it and that. Of course he was in civilians when we went to whatsit to live here. We went to live with his sister in law at Waddington and his brother was the baker there at Waddington. Henry was lucky. Henry went in the air force but he was stationed, he went straight to Canada in a cookhouse there. He never saw the bloody war because he never did no firing, no bombing, nothing and he was there all the years so he was very lucky and that, you know and when I think about it. It was Ethel’s fault. Ethel was sick of him not coming home so she went and complained to the commanding officer at Waddington camp and anyway Henry ended up coming home. He wasn’t very pleased. I think myself he had a woman there to be honest the way he went off. You know he really was mad ‘cause he was enjoying himself in Canada you see. Yeah. Yeah.



Cathie Hewitt, “Interview with Irene Howard ,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 16, 2024,

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