Interview with Joan Ray


Interview with Joan Ray


Joan Ray was born in Doncaster on the 11th March 1925.
Joan suffered problems with her eyes in her early life and tells of the impact it had on her life, including problems with reading and writing.
She spent time in domestic service, working at Hesley Hall in Doncaster, which became a temporary home for soldiers, and she tells of her daily tasks, both for looking after the lady of the house and when the soldiers arrived.
Joan then went to work for Brigg’s and became a riveter, working on side panels of the Avro Lancaster, doing some welding as well.
After the war, Joan married and spent time working with her husband who was a decorator. She also used her skills she learnt in domestic service to help out various charities, the local hospital and also in a prison kitchen.




Temporal Coverage





00:42:30 audio recording


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AM: So, for the second time, my name’s Annie Moody, and I’m here on behalf of the International Bomber Command Centre and Lincoln University. I’m in Wheatley Hills near Doncaster at the minute, with a lady called Joan, and Joan’s son’s here and some friends as well, and we’re going to talk about Joan’s experiences in the war, if that’s alright. And your full name Joan is?
JR: Winifred Beatrice Joan.
AM: Winifred Beatrice.
JR: Me single name was McGuire.
AM: McGuire. What was your date of birth Joan?
JR: 11th March ‘25.
AM: 1925. Where were you born?
JR: In the hospital that used to be in Wood Street but it’s not there no more. Do you know Doncaster at all?
AM: No. So, in Doncaster?
JR: You know where Wood Street is, don’t you?
Other: No.
JR: Well you know where you go down to Waterdale, if you’re going on the bus you come down Moorgate, turn round and it’s just up there, Wood Street, there’s a nice café and that in there, where we go.
AM: Right. So?
JR: So if you come from Gaumont, well there used to be a Gaumont there, didn’t there? And cross over and you come past that theatre that they pulled down as well, and it’s just across from there, that’s Wood Street.
AM: But you’re a Doncaster girl then, and you said that you’re a twin?
JR: Yeah.
AM: Yeah, so what about brothers, any other brothers and sisters?
JR: Yes, I had two more brothers and a sister.
AM: Younger or older than you? What were the age ranges?
JR: Well I were oldest, then me brother that lived at Banbury, he’s died, he was next, then there was me sister, then me other brother.
AM: Right. So they were all younger than you. What did your, what did your Dad do, what?
JR: He was a bus driver and a lorry driver, carried bricks around for builders.
AM: Right. And what about your Mum, was your Mum at home looking after you lot?
JR: Aye, and she used to work in a hairdressers and we used to wash all towels. I used to go and help her, and we used to have to wash all, fetch all towels and things home, wash ‘em, get ‘em dry, and we’d got no driers and take ‘em back [laughter] and then tidy hairdressers up.
AM: Right. Tell me a little bit about your childhood then, what sort of schools you went to and -
JR: Well I didn’t go to -
AM: And what you got up to.
JR: I didn’t go to school a lot because of me eyes, I were walking round with a pad round a lot of time.
AM: Tell me a little bit about this, about your eyes then, about what, what happened.
JR: Well it sounds as though when my brother died, I had a fit and when I come round, me sight had gone and they brought it back a bit in this eye, I’ve had loads of operations, but they couldn’t bring any more back.
AM: Right, and your brother died when he was four, I think you said, from meningitis?
JR: I can remember him ‘cause they had coaches and horses them days for funeral, can remember it.
AM: Right, and then you just completely lost your eyesight in both eyes at first?
JR: Yes, but me Mum paid for a specialist to sort me out, paid for me, and I had all these operations, and he lived on Thorne Road, you know near church, lived in one of them big houses, and used to climb all steps to go to top, and he was a coloured man and he was a specialist and he did a lot for me but they couldn’t, couldn’t come back.
AM: So what was your childhood like then if you, effectively, were blind?
JR: Well I were at ‘ome a lot and I couldn’t go out and play a lot ‘cause I’d got this pad round me, had to wear it most of the day, and I couldn’t have a bike and I couldn’t go to pictures on a Saturday morning with all others ‘cause it’s no good for your eyes.
AM: So you literally had to wear a pad right round your eyes?
JR: Yeah, it was like a thick pad, cotton wool pad. I had to walk around with that, I can remember that.
AM: So when did, what happened then, how you said you got some sight back in one eye, so what sort of age are we talking about there?
JR: I can’t remember.
AM: Ish, were you still little or would you have been a teenager by then?
JR: I was little. I was four I know when I started wearing glasses. When I went to school, I were only kid in school with glasses.
AM: Oh crikey, and this is in?
JR: It’s different now they tell me.
AM: In the twenties, so it was before National Health as well?
JR: Oh yeah.
AM: So your parents were able to pay for you to see someone?
JR: Yeah, they were very good really doing that.
AM: So what did you do if you weren’t at school?
JR: Help me mother, do washing, all sorts.
AM: Even though -
JR: ‘Cause she’d got bronchitis me Mum, I used to do washing and clean up and all sorts of things, and it were washing them days with a dolly tub, not just putting in a machine.
AM: And a mangle?
JR: Yeah, a wooden one.
AM: Pulling it through, pulling the sheets through the mangle?
JR: Yeah, yeah, that’s what I used to do.
AM: So what age were you when you did finally get to school then, ish?
JR: I’d be in juniors.
AM: Right.
JR: So it’d be about seven or eight wouldn’t it?
AM: Seven or eight. So how did that work then given that you hadn’t been to school so the other kids would be able to do things that -
JR: I couldn’t do.
AM: That you couldn’t, so what was that like?
JR: Well I can’t really remember but I didn’t do a lot of writing or anything like that. And I didn’t read, I couldn’t read much, can’t read much now.
AM: Can’t imagine.
JR: I can’t sew, I can knit, spend money [laughter].
AM: So then -
JR: I do voluntary work and that.
AM: Right.
JR: Been in voluntary work a long time.
AM: Oh, I’ll ask you about that in a bit. So how old were you when you left, when you finally left school then?
JR: Fourteen.
AM: And then what? What?
JR: I got a case packed and put on a bus and sent into service.
AM: Tell us about -
JR: I worked in kitchen.
AM: Yeah, tell us a bit more about, where to?
JR: Hesley Hall, that’s in Doncaster, I don’t know if you know. There were thirteen servants and this was a lady and her companion, and I were in kitchen. I used to have to go and wring chickens’ necks, bring ‘em in, let ‘em cool off, clean ‘em, pull feathers out of ‘em and then cook ‘em, and now I don’t eat ‘em.
AM: I’m not surprised. How did, you said you got your case packed and off you went, so how did your, did your parents find that job for you? Well they must have done mustn’t they?
JR: They probably took me to Employment Centre and that.
AM: Right.
JR: And when I could talk to me Mum, ‘cause you didn’t talk to your parents much them days did ya? It’s all different now, and I asked her and she said, ‘we thought it were best for you because of your eyes’. Anyway, war was on then, weren’t it?
AM: Well when you were fourteen, what year were you born again?
JR: ‘25.
AM: ’25, so yeah so the war would be just starting when you were fourteen.
JR: Yeah, we had, it’s a big house, Hesley Hall, and it’s got its own church, we had to go to church every morning with a clean cap and apron on, and if you hadn’t got a clean cap and apron on you got told off, and we had to go to church on a Sunday and all, they let you put your own clothes on them days for Sunday. Yeah they let you put your own clothes, go in your own.
AM: What hours did you work?
JR: I got up at five o’clock to black-lead a fireplace and put kettle on, ‘cause we didn’t have electric cookers or anything, we just had one of these big fireplaces with two ovens.
AM: A range, a big range? Black-leading the whole thing then?
JR: Then I had to go and get myself cleaned up and start doing breakfasts and stuff. Anyway, when I was there, the war was on and a lot of soldiers come to live at Hesley Hall, they had all the tents and everything, the officers lived in Hesley Hall and we had to look after them an’ all.
AM: Where did you, where did you sleep?
JR: In Hesley Hall, right up top.
AM: Up in the - shared rooms?
JR: No, I had me own.
AM: Shared beds, shared beds I bet?
JR: No, I had me own room, me own bed.
AM: You did have your own, oh right.
JR: Yeah, I were on me own.
AM: Did you enjoy it?
JR: Well I didn’t, to think going back looking at it, I don’t know how I did, but you didn’t know any different did ya?
AM: Yeah.
JR: But there were thirteen servants and we used to do these long meals at night, seven or eight courses, some of courses were only like a slice, two fingers of toast with sardines on and things, asparagus on a bit of toast, but there used to be six or seven courses.
AM: Um, right.
JR: But we didn’t have to wash up, butler did that.
AM: You got away with that? So what was your title, kitchen maid?
JR: Yeah.
AM: Did you get -
JR: I used to make butter, I used to go and help milk cows, come back and make butter, then I made two stone of bread.
AM: Tell me about making butter.
JR: Oh it’s good making, well it’s hard, it was in a machine not like now, you had to turn it all the time, but it were good patting it up in ‘cause all the people that worked at Hesley Hall, we had their ration cards so we had to make butter and take it round to all these houses, the gardeners and all them sort of people, ‘cause we had the ration book. It’s good knocking it out into pounds.
AM: It was in a big square, weren’t it?
JR: Yeah, but you used to have to knock it down into rations, you only had so much, about six ounces, two ounces a person.
AM: Did they not get a bit more because you were there making it rather than having to go to the shop?
JR: I had to weigh it out, didn’t I?
AM: Oh right, into greaseproof paper.
JR: Um.
AM: So when they sold.
JR: And this kitchen I worked in, it were bigger than my downstairs, and I used to have to scrub floor.
AM: Right, were you good?
JR: And I had to scrub all floor as well, what led to other rooms.
AM: And when you say scrub?
JR: I meant scrub with a brush [emphasis].
AM: On your knees?
JR: Yes.
AM: So you’re up at five?
JR: And then I worked in the scullery, in the scullery a lot as well, doing vegetables and all that, then I’d come with cook in kitchen.
AM: So you’re up at five, black-leading the grate, clean yourself.
JR: And I wanted to go to bed.
AM: So what time did you go to bed?
JR: It were late, about, ten, half past ten something like that, ‘cause we had to clean kitchen up and everything.
AM: So you’re working literally the whole way through?
JR: I got one day off a week to take me money home to me Mum.
AM: I was going to ask how much did you get paid?
JR: Eight shillings a week.
AM: Eight shillings, that sounds quite a lot actually for then, but you divvyed it up to your Mum, the whole lot. Were you allowed to keep any?
JR: Yes she gave me a bit back, I remember buying me first pair of shoes, nineteen and eleven.
AM: Did you get your uniforms, so you got your uniforms off, you didn’t have to buy?
JR: No you had to buy your own.
AM: You had to buy your own uniform?
JR: Um, we used to go to a shop in Doncaster that sold all uniforms and that.
AM: Right.
JR: Um.
AM: Crikey.
JR: And they were long dresses and these aprons right down to the.
AM: What about on your head?
JR: A hat on.
AM: Like a mop cap thing? Crikey. So we’re at the beginning of the war, there’s soldiers there, are they actually, so they’re in the house?
JR: The officers were, the soldiers were in the tents and things outside.
AM: What were they doing? Were they square bashing and stuff or-
JR: Well they used to go off and do different things so I don’t exactly know what they did. I had a boyfriend, he were called Les, a soldier.
AM: Where did you meet him?
JR: Hesley Hall.
AM: You actually met him there?
JR: Um. Used to have to take these dogs for a walk that belonged to lady and sort of started talking, he were called Les.
AM: What was the, the relationship, if there was any, between the upstairs and the downstairs?
JR: Well I hardly ever saw the lady, only when we went to church, and her companion. They never came to kitchen or anything, the housekeeper did all the ordering and stuff.
AM: Right.
JR: Um.
AM: And did you all have your own pews in the church?
JR: Yes, we were right at the top.
AM: Right [laughter]. So you’d been doing this for, so how many years were you doing that?
JR: Well the lady died, I must have been about sixteen. So, her son offered me a job to go and work at his house but I wouldn’t go. So then I went to employment place and they sent me to work at ‘ospital and then that’s where they called me up, from ‘ospital. I were a ward maid there.
AM: You were a ward maid at the hospital? So when you say they called you up, how did that actually happen?
JR: Well everybody was called up at seventeen and a half, you just got your papers didn’t you?
AM: Yeah, girls, if they weren’t married got, were called up weren’t they? So you got your papers calling you and where did you have to go with them?
JR: To employment place.
AM: Right, and what were your choices, were you given any choice of what you did?
JR: Not really.
AM: So what, what did they do, interview you, talk to you, ask you or just -
JR: No they didn’t interview you, ask you what you wanted to do or anything, they just give you a job, and that were it.
AM: And that was it?
JR: Probably got that sort of a job to go to ‘ospital because I’d been in service you see. But we used to, in war, we used to help make beds and all sorts, clean them wards, move all beds, they don’t move beds now.
AM: Did you get paid for it, Joan?
JR: At ‘ospital, yeah.
AM: Yeah, so it’s war work.
JR: Yeah, yeah I got paid for that. I can’t remember what I got paid, but I got paid.
AM: Yeah. So, you’re seventeen and half now, so how long were you at the hospital for?
JR: Oh not so long.
AM: No.
JR: ‘Cause they called me up and they sent me to Brigg’s. No choice then.
AM: They called you?
JR: They called me up and sent me to Brigg’s to do Lancasters.
AM: Right, Briggs did you say?
JR: Brigg’s that’s what the place was called.
AM: Right, where was that?
JR: Bottom of Carr Hill.
AM: In Doncaster again?
JR: Well it’s just outside a few miles, in’t it?
AM: Yeah, so tell me about what you did then. When you first got there and they said, ‘Joan, this is what you’re doing’ .
JR: Um. I were a riveter.
AM: You were a riveter?
JR: On the side panels, you know, the side panels?
AM: Yeah.
JR. We used to have to lift them up, put all these metal strips across and put rivets through ‘em all.
AM: How did you learn how to do it?
JR: Well you just got on with it, just told you what to do, and you got on with it, and I did a bit of welding, but not a lot ‘cause of me glasses.
AM: Right.
JR: But these panels were heavy to lift up to put on a stand and long [giggles].
AM: And did you know what, I’m just trying to think of phrasing me question, so it’s a side panel on the Lancaster?
JR: Yes.
AM: What’s there at that point, has it got wings or anything like that?
JR: Oh no.
AM: So it’s the body of it?
JR: It was just blank.
AM: Right.
JR: And we’d put all these metal strips and riveted them on, it strengthens them don’t it sort of thing?
AM: Yeah. So when you say ‘riveted them on’ describe, describe that to me.
JR: Well there was two of you working together, one had to hold a block to hold this rivet in then the lady on the other side, or whoever it was, hammered it in.
AM: Right. So it’s not with like electric machines like we’ve got now, it was just sheer hard work. What were you dressed in, what did you look like?
JR: We used to have an overall and that’s where I started wearing trousers. Yeah we had an overall and very often had to wear a turban ‘cause of your hair.
AM: Yeah, tied up.
JR: ‘Cause I used to use the drill as well you see, to drill all these home and one day the drill fell off, it fell, it dropped, and it stuck in me foot.
AM: Oh, tell me a bit more about that.
JR: I had to pull it out, and all this blood.
AM: So you pulled it out, no health and safety in them days then, you just got on with it?
JR: Yeah. There was a nurse there I had to go and see her and she said, ‘You’d better go home’.
AM: Crikey, you know when you say you wore a turban, what was your hair like then?
JR: Curly like it is now.
AM: Yeah. How did you wear it though, was it?
JR: Well you had to tuck it up didn’t you?
AM: So it was long, all pushed up into the scarf?
JR: It’s always been curly.
AM: Yeah. So tell me a bit more about the Lancasters then, what you got up to.
JR: What do you mean, what we got up to?
AM: Well, anything [laughter]. Were there any -
JR: Didn’t have time to get up to a lot, we were working all the time. We used to have a, the only good thing was, you used to be able to get a good dinner and things and used to be able to buy cakes and things to take home for your Mother, and that which was good, and we used to have an ENSA concert every dinner time.
AM: Right.
JR: Um yeah.
AM: How many of you were working there was it?
JR: Hundreds.
AM: Hundreds, it was big then?
JR: Yes, it’s a big place isn’t it? Hundreds, thousands, men and women, ‘cause they made the engines there as well you know.
AM: Right.
JR: And they sent them to Hatfield in London. Yeah, we were at this side riveting and the men were doing engines and that on the other side, but it’s quite a big place.
AM: Um. Would you, were you aware, kind of thinking back, were you aware of just what it was you were making?
JR: No not really, not ‘til I got older, no.
AM: No.
JR: And when I saw a Lancaster, I was surprised how big they were.
AM: When did you actually get to see one, full-fledged with its wings and everything?
JR: Er, I saw, Tony took me didn’t he, where did he take me down South somewhere?
AM: Oh so much, much later than?
JR: Yeah.
John: She didn’t see one in the war, that’s what the lady’s asking you.
JR: No, no.
AM: Did you see any of them actually flying, were you bombed, were you?
JR: Yes, but Doncaster was bombed, yes.
AM: So what was that like?
JR: Bentley was worst.
AM: Right, which is, yes so we’ve just come up through Bentley to get here, off pass.
JR: Yeah that was worst ‘cause a lot of houses were bombed and me husband had a friend called Josh, and he went to pictures and when he come home his house weren’t there, they’d all gone, and Balby got bombed a lot.
AM: What was it like?
JR: Awful, it were terrible.
AM: Where you ever outside or, so where did you go, did the air raid sirens go off and you had to -
JR: Well you had to go in your shelter, we used to go in coal house. It was, well I were in a council house, there was a house there and a passage, in the passage there was a coal house, and a coal house on the other lady’s side, we used to have to go in there.
AM: Right I think we’ve jumped a bit now haven’t we, is this when you were married?
JR: No.
AM: Oh right, hang on, ‘cause you mentioned your husband.
JR: Yeah, well that was after, when I were at home, that’s what we did we went in the coal house.
AM: Right, got you, got you.
JR: I weren’t married when Josh got bombed in Bentley, I weren’t married then.
AM: Right, so when you say in the coal house, was it, that’s not underground though is it?
JR: No, no, it were just through the kitchen, you went through the kitchen and the door there, and they used to have like a shutter that pulled out, the coal used to be delivered through it.
AM: Through a chute into it, yeah. So how was that going to save you then, when being in the house wouldn’t?
JR: That’s what we used to do.
AM: Did you sleep in there?
JR: Yeah, sometimes.
AM: And the coal was still in there?
JR: Aye, coal were at that end and we were all at this end where we’d put some seats and things.
AM: And how many of you were there then, ‘cause you’ve got your younger sisters and brothers?
JR: There were six of us when I -
AM: And the whole lot of you, there in the coal house?
JR: When I were fourteen and the war was still on when I went to Hesley.
AM: How long, going back to the Lancaster factory, how long did you work there for?
JR: From seventeen and a half to twenty-one.
AM: So four years. Riveting, always riveting?
JR: Welding a bit.
AM: What were your fingers like? I can’t -
JR: You didn’t have gloves or anything. These rivets are not very big [laughs].
AM: Did you ever whack your fingers?
JR: Oh aye, yeah.
AM: What other sort of people worked there, was it all girls or were there any?
JR: There were lads, older men and older ladies but with ‘usbands in the army and things.
AM: Yeah.
JR: They used to come, they worked there as well.
AM: And the older men were the ones who were too old?
JR: For the army and that.
AM: Okay, so what did you do for entertainment?
JR: Well I used to go dancing a bit and then I joined a youth club and went there. A lot of us, a few of us from the factory went to this youth club, it was down off Hallgate, it’s a church, there used to be a youth club in it.
AM: Right.
JR: The church is still there, it’s called Free something, yes went to this youth club, and we used to have to walk home at night ‘cause all buses finished at nine o’clock, you could walk home them days. Couldn’t do that now can you?
AM: Well not, no, I wouldn’t want to. Where did you go dancing?
JR: Schools in Balby.
AM: And who were you dancing with?
JR: Anybody who asked me to dance.
AM: But if all the young men were in the army?
JR: Well Jack wasn’t in the army. He was, I met Jack at this youth club, he used to go dancing.
AM: Right, so was Jack, did Jack become your husband?
JR: Yes. He was a Bevin boy, they called him up because his Mum had a, didn’t have an husband, she had a lot of young children, they let Jack go into be a Bevin boy instead of going into the army.
AM: Where did you meet Jack?
JR: In this youth club.
AM: You met him at the youth club?
JR: He took me thru’pence off me to get in [laughs].
AM: So he was a Bevin boy, how old was he, was he the same age as you or younger?
JR: A couple of years older weren’t he?
AM: A couple of years older and what?
JR: An he were secretary, take your money off you and all that.
AM: Right, so you gave him the eye, or he gave you the eye?
JR: Well me friend, Irene, well we went, they asked, Jack and this friend of his Josh, asked us to go to pictures with ‘em. And we went to pictures at Bentley, and I went with Jack, and Irene went with Josh, yeah. Went to pictures in Bentley, that picture place is still there now and it’s awful, right up in Bentley.
AM: And how long were you going out with each other then, before you got married?
JR: Oh that’s a sore point, innit?
John: Um.
AM: Oh.
JR: I wanted to get married at nineteen, and me Dad says, ‘There’s no weddings here’, oh dear, and then when I got to twenty one he said, ‘You’re not getting married’. I said ‘Well I’m twenty one’, he said, ‘Well we’re not having you getting married’, anyway he wouldn’t let me get married, so I went off and got married.
AM: So you just did it anyway?
JR: I lived with Jack’s Mum for a couple of years and Tony was born about a year after, and Jack’s Mum lived in this terraced house and there were no bathroom, no hot water, just a copper in the corner where you had to boil hot water, toilet right down road, garden, and when I had Tony, me son, the doctor come to the ‘ouse, they used to them days and he says, ‘You can’t stop here with a young baby’ so he got me a prefab in [indistinct] and I was the last prefab in that street. I saw all these others go up, yeah, he says, ‘You can’t live here’, and I’ve been up here over sixty odd, seventy years.
AM: Seventy years. So he was a Bevin boy, what was that like then?
JR: Awful. He had been in the pit because you, a lot of the boys went in pit straight from school especially if their fathers and that worked there, and then he trained as a decorator and then he was, when the war finished and that he went back to his decorating and that, and then he run his own business.
AM: Right. ‘Cause they didn’t really get any recognition either did they, the Bevin boys, ‘cause they weren’t in the army or the RAF or in the forces.
JR: No, well they did get some recognition later on didn’t they?
John: Um.
JR: But me, Jack had died and they wouldn’t give it him would they?
John: No.
AM: So they wouldn’t do it posthumously? Had to be younger, crikey.
JR: And it’s ten years last weekend that he died.
AM: Yeah. Were you happy though?
JR: Yeah.
AM: Good, and you got your two.
JR: It were brilliant. Going from Jack’s Mum to this prefab, ‘cause with having no bathroom, going down garden for toilet and everything, I come to that prefab, it’d got a lovely bathroom, central heating, own toilet.
AM: I was just going to say I know what a prefab is but for anybody coming along, describe what a prefab is.
JR: It were them double-deckers not the single ones it were.
AM: And they were literally made out of prefabricated?
JR: Yeah, yeah. Paper stuff, the walls were paper, with Jack being a decorator, he couldn’t strip them or anything that’s why we moved here, ‘cause he couldn’t strip the walls or anything.
AM: But they were?
JR: They’ve altered them all now.
AM: But they were built directly after the war weren’t they, when there was a big housing shortage?
JR: They were ever so warm with central heating and everything, it were brilliant.
AM: And that was a long time before most houses had central heating?
JR: Yeah.
AM: Kitchen?
JR: Yeah, nice kitchen.
AM: Well everything, inside loo?
JR: Yeah.
AM: How long did you live in the prefab for then?
JR: About eight year. Eight or nine years.
AM: Right, ‘cause initially they were supposed to be temporary weren’t they? For maybe I don’t know.
JR: Ten years. They are pulling some down now aren’t they?
AM: A lot, a lot, funnily enough, there was a big prefab estate where I lived and we all called it Tin Town, everybody lived in Tin Town.
JR: There was a lot at Balby, a lot of prefabs the single ones, but these were all double-decker but they were lovely.
AM: Yeah.
JR: I got the key on Christmas Eve, we couldn’t move in though ‘cause there were no electric.
AM: Right.
JR: So we had to wait ‘til after Christmas.
AM: Bet you loved it though, didn’t you?
JR: Yeah. It was brilliant.
AM: Have you guys got any questions?
Other: Did you ever see your Mum and Dad again?
JR: Yes, when Tony, well I kept in touch with me Mum, but when Tony were born, I thought he ought to see his Grandma so I took him.
Other: Ah.
AM: Why did your Dad -
JR: And I went, I went, when I were there and me Dad turn up with his lorry, ‘cause he used to go all over, he’d drop in for a cup of tea, there’s me in back kitchen, him in lounge ‘cause he didn’t want to see me.
Other: Oh dear.
AM: Forgive me for asking but why, why did he not want you to get married, why?
JR: I don’t know but he’d stopped it. I’d booked it at a church and he went to stop it, we had to go somewhere else, but when he died he said to Jack ‘You’d took me little’, we were sat with him ages before he died and when he died he said ‘You took me little girl off me’, just before he died. He’d had it on his mind all that time.
AM: All those years.
JR: And I’d had, me Mum died and we used to go and look after me Dad, didn’t we? Take him baking, his dinners and everything for years, um yeah, and me Dad were lovely when I were a kid, he used to take us shopping and buy stocks and things for us but -
AM: We’ll never know.
JR: Yeah so I went back home and I used to have ‘em here, didn’t I, for Christmas and everything?
AM: And have you, you just got your two boys, Tony and John. Grandchildren?
JR: Yeah, I’ve got four grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
AM: Five great grandchildren, crikey.
JR: [Laughs] That’s where Tony is this weekend.
AM: Right. Oh of course you said.
JR: ‘Cause Rose is two tomorrow.
AM: Have I, have I missed anything, John?
John: She’s not two is she? I thought she were one, but she’s probably two.
JR: Eh?
John: I thought she were one today or tomorrow.
JR: Two, she’s two tomorrow.
John: Two by -
AM: Time flies.
John: It does.
AM: Have I missed anything John, that you know that your Mum’s should be telling?
John: Well she’s told me lots of things over the years, most of which she’s sort of told you but there’s various bits and pieces that she hasn’t.
JR: [Laughs].
AM: Oh, come on.
JR: What haven’t I told ‘em?
John: You what?
JR: What haven’t I told ‘em?
John: Well you told me you wanted to go in the navy.
JR: Yeah.
John: And they wouldn’t let you go in the navy.
JR: No and then they wouldn’t let me go into ATS.
John: Well there you are, you didn’t tell this lady that.
AM: When you say they wouldn’t, who’s they?
JR: The, who interviews you and the medical and all that.
AM: At the Labour Exchange?
JR: And you have a medical when you go in army or navy, ‘cause there were no dressing gowns, and I used to be walking round with no clothes on most of the flipping day, when you went out to different people, no dressing gowns!
AM: All girls I hope?
JR: Aye [laughter].
AM: No boys. Was that because of your eyes?
JR: And you had to go to Sheffield for that. Pardon?
AM: Was that because of your eyes that they wouldn’t let you do that?
JR: Yes, I could have made tea in ATS, worked in kitchens.
AM: Did you resent it then, having to go doing the riveting, or were you happy there once you were, once you were doing it?
JR: Well you didn’t think about it did you, you were just [indistinct].
AM: Did as you were told?
JR: You just had to go.
AM: Yeah.
JR: Um.
John: You told me that you used to do overtime and finish about ten o’clock at night and there were no buses.
JR: Yeah.
John: So you had to walk ‘ome.
AM: Yeah you said you had to walk home, yeah.
JR: I didn’t walk on me own, there used to be a few of us going the same way.
AM: Yeah.
John: And who did you see in these concerts then at dinnertime?
AM: Oh at the -
JR: Betty Driver and all them sort of people.
AM: Yeah, what did Betty Driver do, was she a, she was a singer?
JR: A singer um.
AM: Anybody else who became famous?
JR: I just can’t remember now, but Betty Driver, I can remember her, and there used to be a couple, a man and a lady who used to come, and I can’t think of their name.
AM: Was it Workers’ Playtime or did that come afterwards?
JR: Well we called it ENSA concerts, so I don’t know about Workers’ Playtime.
John: You weren’t on the radio?
JR: What?
John: The concerts were never on the radio?
JR: No.
AM: No, ‘cause I think some of the ENSA ones were the Workers’ Playtime ones weren’t they?
JR: Um, yeah.
AM: Kept you all entertained then?
JR: Sometimes we worked seven days a week, sometimes we got a weekend off.
AM: Going back to the big house, this is just things jumping into my mind now, if you were all, if all the servants, were all the servants called up? And if so who then looked after the -
JR: No they were all different ages, the butler and that was older and the chief cook was older, yeah, you know.
AM: Right.
JR: Yeah.
AM: Right so it was just you.
JR: And a lot of the servants had their houses round them, they had a house. Housekeeper and top servants had houses.
AM: ‘Cause life in houses like that pretty much changed completely after the war didn’t they, when once you’d all been out working and doing other things people didn’t want to, go back to domestic service.
JR: No, no.
AM: It’s fascinating.
John: You used to tell me about cockroaches in the ‘ospital.
AM: Oh go on.
JR: I used to help in wards and that, and I used to clean nurses’ bedrooms and I worked in kitchen. Before you could go in kitchen to start cooking, you had to sweep cockroaches up and that.
Other: Ugh.
AM: Live ones?
JR: Yeah and I lived in nurses’ home when I worked there and we had to walk from nurses’ home, right across to old ‘ospital and yeah, we used to have to pick, sweep cockroaches up and all that and get in kitchen to see what any bats flying about.
AM: Bats?
JR: These cockroaches were awful though, ‘cause they’re that flipping quick.
Other: [Laughter].
AM: It doesn’t, I’m lost for words [laughter]. I can’t imagine that now.
John: So what did you do, how did you find out that you weren’t going to work at Briggs anymore. Was that after the war finished?
JR: When I got married, I finished.
AM: Yeah, once women got married then that, that war work could come to an end then, but for -
JR: That were ’46 when I got married.
AM: Yeah, ‘cause yeah you were called up for war work whatever form that took, and that could be anything from scrubbing floors, riveting, you know, depending where you were sent. Did you ever think about, oh you did think about joining the forces and they wouldn’t let you would they? Well.
JR: Me brother was in the navy, he went in the navy, me older brother, the other two were too young.
AM: Yeah. Did he come through it alright?
JR: Yeah, he’d had a nasty time, he were in sea for hours sometimes and that, but he come through it.
AM: It is a completely different way of life, and then to move and then to get your house and be married and - did you ever work again after that, did you go back to work after you’d had your children?
JR: Jack used to go and decorate, they built all these new houses ,all round at Hedlington and all over, he’s built all these new houses. He worked for a Mr Moisey who was a, had a building business, didn’t he? And Jack were decorator for him and he used to say, ‘Joan’ll clean ‘ouse up when I’ve finished!’ [laughter].
AM: And did you?
JR: ‘Course [emphasis].
AM: You did?
JR: Got Tony in a pushchair and when he went, after it all got, that is he started on his own, you’d be about five when he started on his own, wouldn’t you? And he used to tell ladies, ‘Joan’ll come and clean up for ya’, so I used to go and clean houses [laughs].
John: You’d clean Moisy’s office.
JR: Yeah.
John: Used to take me there Mum, used to play in the sandpit.
JR: Yes in the pushchair.
AM: So your memories then were going round all the houses? Gosh.
JR: Yeah, started on his own, ‘Joan’ll come and clean up after me’.
John: What did you do at Evening Post?
JR: Worked in kitchens, in canteen rather, not kitchens, where they all came for their meals.
AM: So back to cooking again?
JR: And that closed didn’t it?
John: Um.
JR: I lost me job.
John: Then you went to the hotel.
JR: And then I went to work at a hotel on Thorne Road. That were [indistinct]. I were in kitchen there doing breakfasts.
AM: So that domestic service has got a lot to answer for. Apart from -
John: Then you went to prison, Mum.
AM: Oh come on, to prison? [laughter].
JR: I didn’t have handcuffs on! [emphasis]
AM: Come on, you have to tell me now [laughter].
JR: I went as a volunteer.
AM: Oh you said you’d done a lot volunteer work, yeah. Tell me about that.
JR: Well I was working at ‘ospital as a volunteer and it come through that they wanted volunteers at prison, that new prison that opened. So me and me friend, I had a friend called Eleanor, we used to go out and what, and she said, ‘We’ll go there’, and then we went voluntary in this prison, new prison in Doncaster.
AM: When you say volunteering, what did you do then?
JR: Made tea and made sandwiches, and served bacon sandwiches and all sorts we made in prison, served prisoners, seen loads of tea being thrown at people. They used to, prisoners, they used to, family used to go and buy a tray of tea and go back to table to prisoners and if they didn’t want it they just chucked it at ‘em, and another thing that was bad in prison as well was drugs. Used to put in babies nappies and anywhere they could put ‘em.
AM: How long ago are we talking here? What, what, round about when would this be?
JR: I’ve got a plaque, it’s got a date on [laughter]..
John: Can you manage?
JR: Go and fetch my plaque?
John: Where is it?
JR: It’s in kitchen.
AM: So how many years did you do volunteer work for?
JR: I done it.
John: She’s just finished.
AM: A long time.
JR: When John went to university, I started at, I started at Oxfam first.
AM: Right.
JR: Then that closed, then I went to Shelter and that closed.
AM: There’s a pattern here isn’t there?
John: Yeah [laughter].
JR: I went to, I was still at Shelter when I worked, the ‘ospital had just opened a coffee shop and I went when it were brand new, and that’s when I went there, and I’ve just retired from there.
AM: You’ve just retired from there, how long ago?
John: I can’t find your prison one.
JR: It’s on the shelf.
John: Have a look.
JR: It’s silver.
AM: So the, what I’m looking at now, is a certificate of appreciation awarded to Joan Ray, in recognition of her valuable contributions to Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals, NHS Foundation Trusts and that is 2013, so that is only three years ago. So, you were still volunteering there up until your late eighties?
JR: Yeah. That’s right I was there twenty eight year.
AM: Blimey. Oh here we are here’s the prison one. So Joan worked at HM & YOI Youth Offenders Institute at Doncaster from June 1994 to June 1999, in recognition of your five years valuable service as a volunteer.
JR: Yes, I retired from there when Jack was ill.
AM: Yeah, and then went to the hospital? I’ll tell you a story about Doncaster and Bassetlaw when I’ve switched my thing off. In fact, I’m going to switch off now, but that was so interesting and useful.
JR: Interesting.
Other: That was hard. That was so -
AM: It is.



Annie Moody, “Interview with Joan Ray,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 20, 2024,

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