(Copy of letter from William Walter Kellaway (1852–1928) written in 1927 in Durban South Africa, to his granddaughter Molly Kellaway in Birmingham.|
The letter is copied from the handwritten original, and any comments which I have made are in brackets within the body of the letter.
Ted Kellaway 17 Jan 2009 Pietermaritzburg South Africa, Grandson of William Walter Kellaway).
I understand my granddaughter is to join in two–minute talks at her literary club on Tales of our Grandfathers. The two minutes is probably a minimum limit and an indulgent audience might tolerate ten.
My most vivid and earliest recollections of school was when I must have been from three to five years old, when I was desperately in love with a little girl who sat higher up on the gallery and that little girl was my one and only ideal for a long, long time. Now do not smile and say rubbish, children can really fall in love, a thing that has been disputed.
This school was in the New Forest. We lived a mile or so from the school and every night at close the boys of our village had a pitched battle at the crossroads with those of the next. Ammunition was plentiful, gravel, stones and pebbles abounded.
I visited that school sixty years afterwards and in amazement the heather covered Bunkers Hill two or three hundred yards off to find that its mighty ravine which I prided myself in those days on being able to negotiate was a mere dry water–course of two feet at its deepest, and the hill itself must surely have sunk into the earth, or how can I account for its present attenuated moundish form.
My father (Edward Kellaway) was promoted from that village to a larger one. My schooldays there showed that I became a leader in school and choir, taking prizes in the former and solos in the church, but am afraid I was really a very naughty boy and my delinquencies numerous and unmentionable, but outstanding was one committed during detention – a bit of willfulness I need not particularize.
Naughtiness it undoubtedly was and resulted in my conduct being brought to the Rector′s notice. In his study I was made to feel very wicked and might almost have committed the unpardonable sin. On my knees my confession was made and not in pugnaciousness but penitence and it was the earliest time in my life that God was real. The Rector made me indeed see “The exceeding sinfulness of sin,” but I felt I was forgiven The wound however was bitterly reopened a very short time afterwards by this great, good man, for he was good and became great, and Archdeacon in India, and whose daughter is the Duchess of Bedford, still alive I think.
It was prize-giving day and on the vicarage lawn children and parents and visitors were assembled. In presenting a certain prize, the thoughtless or simple man prefaced his remarks by saying it would have been mine, mentioning my name, but for the misbehaviour referred to, that′s what I should now call rubbing it in, but it nearly broke my heart and I burst into tears. I thought the thing was done with, however I had many sympathizers and one good soul gave me a lovely volume of “The Hand of God in History” a book I took more notice of forty years afterwards. – Is the person of the present day so solicitous of the souls of the lambs of the flock?
The turnpike toll gate was kept by an old couple who combined its duties with the sale of ginger beer and bulls eyes. On Saturdays I made out some statement of the weeks receipts and toll tickets, for this accountancy I was paid in bulls eyes with an occasional copper but I earned a regular wage of 1/– a week for carrying the morning milk from a farm to the vicarage.
I knew nothing of the law of centrifugal force but applied it in swinging the milk can at arms length in a circle without spilling. My sister who was on the household staff as we should say in these days, used to watch and wait anxiously my arrival which was heralded by a unique, terrific piercing screech, audible for a mile. She asked me a few years ago if I remembered upsetting the milk (The sister would have been Helen or Mary Ann).
When the family were away it was a great treat to play God save the Queen with one finger on their piano, I need not say we did not possess one, but alas one day I left my cap shut up in it, where it was found on her return by the lady. This gave the game away and I′ve no doubt the Rector added that to my other heinous crimes – mere peccadillos after all.
We two fogies enjoyed a laugh over these incidents sixty years afterwards – “The evil that men do (or boys) lives after them” nobody reminds me of any good deeds and it looks as if they “will be interred with my bones.”
The village was along the route of the old Andover and Redbridge railway line which took the place of a canal filled in. My father′s duties as police sergeant were livened up with the advent of gangs of navvies and I remember we regarded the navvy as something hardly human. Class distinction was very strong even among the humble folk, and there was no practise at hailing him as a man and a brother – the village cobbler or “snob” as was the term shoemakers were known by in those days was immeasureably superior to the navvy and would not fraternize with him at the pub – is that why we hear of snobbishness?
When the telegraph wires were strung up dozens of game birds, pheasants, partridges etc flew into them and took their last flight from the adjacent coverts – people collected them.
The marriage of King Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, in ′63 was a great day in ours, the largest village (Probably Stockbridge), other villages joined us and our long street was set out with trestles and boards and abundant food filled the tables – sports for old and young and no broken hearts that day.
I was old enough now to indulge in a bit of fish poaching and many a trout tickled to death fell to my fingers – tickling or groping trout was a great game – how many boys, I wonder, now crawl along the banks of the tributaries of that most famous of the English trout rivers, the Hampshire Test! To this day I carry the mark of a cut received when walking naked across a narrow viaduct rail with a fine trout in both hands – no hand for balancing. I slipped, but bleeding, stuck to my fish and dressed after the bathing.
My aunt was housekeeper on a gentleman′s large estate a few miles away. She was good to us children and helped father by clothing and probably feeding us. (This was probably Ann, born 1823, eldest daughter of James Kellaway and Sarah Chiverton)
Taken with my brother to see her one day, she announced at the dinner table that William would say grace. In those days “Ours not to reason why,” I obediently rose and went through the long “Be present at etc – – –” and sat down and Tom – thinking he must do likewise, rose and commenced. He got snuffed out with “Once is enough.”
Before we left the table she told one of the servants to “Fetch two plates for William,” – well I didn′t know that I wanted two plates but she said I needed them to put my elbows in!
Father′s next promotion took us to Basingstoke where my schooling finished at the British School.
When I joined the telegraph company the most rapid and advanced form of instrument used between Southampton and London required two live wires all the way. An expert could do 35 words a minute on it. Known as the Double Needle, a curio now in science museums.
In 1870 the various companies were transferred to the Post Office and I was sent to Crentherne to teach a daughter of the Postmaster telegraphy.
It happened thus – there were no female telegraphists attached to large offices in the provinces until, from London, two were sent to Bristol. They had an office to themselves in Queen Square. They came one day with the Superintendent round the Head telegraph room and I caught sight of most lovely, long golden hair and a tiny, tiny waist, disappearing through the folding doors. I fell in love with it and, a short time afterwards, madly with her.
(This was Emmeline Harriette Brown (1852–1941) one of the first two female telegraphists sent to Bristol and who, in her eighties, used to tell me with pride of her sixteen inch waist that her husband could encompass with both hands and who, in her eighties in Durban, used to listen with wrapt attention to the morse coming in over the radio, in the hope of detecting German submarines off the South African coast).
She was a Church of England communicant – I was not eligible, not having been confirmed, and was also christened at a chapel.
Going back to my business life, I was interested in technical matters and fortunate enough to discover a means of improving fast speed telegraphy. For this I received a monetary gratuity from the Post Office and a transfer into the Engineering Department.
(The method which he devised for speeding up telegraph transmission was adopted by the British Post Office, and he was also offered a post in America with Western Union, which he declined.
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