Out Of The Ashes Of Leicester
Two years after the end of the second world war. At three, Providence Place Leicester on March the 17th a mother was getting her son ready for his bath. The time was around four o'clock in the afternoon The daily bath took place in the front room of the old terraced house in front of an open coal fire The baby was approximately 14 months old.
After washing the baby, she laid him on a dry towel and went into the kitchen to get talc to dry him off. Now this little lad had already been walking and was very active for his age. So, he rolled over onto his front side and crawled to the fire. He then stood up and tumbled into it face first, also trapping his right hand in the fire His mother returned to the room to find her son lying helpless on the fire, she rushed to his aid screaming and pulled him off the fire ''Brian!'' she screamed several times. Brian was her eldest son by a previous marriage and he'd heard her the first time as he was already on his way down the stairs He gasped in horror at the sight that greeted him.
''Fetch your dad from the pub! Quick!" his mum shouted as she wiped tears from her eyes. The pub was across the street and Brian was back in a flash with his dad and half the pub. When his dad saw the baby, he couldn't believe his eyes. A friend asked in a shout, ''Is he dead" With tears steaming down her face, the baby's mother screamed, ''No, he's not dead!'' "I will get the car. Put a blanket around him! We have to get him to the Royal hospital as quick as possible!'' said the baby's father. The car pulled up and mother and baby got in. The baby's father jumped out and had a friend drive. Away they went at high speed with headlights flashing.
From the backseat, the father asked how had had it happened. The nearly hysterical mother explained, "I went in the kitchen,'' she then broke down, clutching her son. ''Can't you drive any faster please!" she screamed through her tears. She kept repeating to her baby, We're nearly there. We're nearly there."
A crowd had gathered at the entrance to the emergency room as the car pulled up and the doctors, nurses and porters were already waiting. In seconds the lad was on a the mother and father sat in the waiting room and after what respirator.
seemed like an hour, a doctor finally appeared.
''Is he going to be all right, please?'' the mother begged.
The doctor took hold of her hand and sort of caressed it. He asked, "Mrs. Jackson, has your son been baptized?'' ''No! Oh please, no!'' his mother cried. ''Can we see him?" she then inquired. The doctor nodded and took her to her baby.
There she saw her son's head was completely bandaged with only holes for his eyes and mouth. His hand was completely covered and there were tubes everywhere. His dad went outside and sat down shaking his head and for the first time someone saw tears fall from his eyes, although he was not crying.
A priest was found and the mother and father watched as the priest said the words the mother would never forget: "I baptiZe you in the name of the father, the son, and the holy ghost. The priest then made the sign of the cross on the child's forehead. His mother collapsed on the floor.
The doctor had said that they couldn't do any more and the baby was now in the Lord's hands. By being baptized he could enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Without baptism it is of course Christian belief that this cannot happen. After three more hours the father kissed his wife on the forehead and whispered. ''He will be ok" and left her there so he could go home to look after the other children of the family.
The mother stayed at the baby's side for six days and eventually the doctors told her that the baby would survive, but he would be scarred for a long time. The baby was returned to his parents after about three months in hospital. He was taken home to be with his brothers and sister.
You see, that baby was me, Robert George Jackson, and I would like to tell you my story....
Three Providence Place Leicester
Leicester is a city in the middle of England that is famous for Garry Lineker, Belgrave Road, (the curry mile) known by that name because every other shop is an Indian curry restaurant. Also, the Leicester Crazy gang, Walker's Crisps who have built a great big factory on the old city farms, my old hunting ground Cardinal Wolsey who is buried in the Abbey Park and the birth peace of Thomas Cook the travel agents.
Ivan Marks, the coarse fisherman and a gentleman now deceased was from there. I think St. Peter was having a hard time catching fish and needed some help.
Not forgetting Richard the Third, who was defeated and killed at the Battle of Bosworth and they say his body was thrown in to the river Soar off West Bridge in Leicester.
The area of Providence Place was known as Wharf Street, which was well known for the birth of the 'Elephant Man, John Merrick,' Hiller's the butcher shop, and Sue Townsend the author of the Secret Diary of Adrian Mole. And not forgetting Lady Jane Grey who was the Queen of England before being beheaded in the Tower of London aged 17 years. She lived in what is now Bradgate Park in Leicestershire and was the shortest reigning Queen of England which was for, I think, six days.
Nearly all the streets were made of cobblestones and the street lights were powered by gas. All the streets looked the same and they ran in different directions with rows of terraced houses running all the way down one side of the street and back up the other. There was an entry to the backyards every ten houses or so.
Those yards were very much alike with a couple of cold water taps for those who wished to shower.
We had a Mr. Wright in our yard. He would shower in the coldest of weather. I recall he was a big man with big muscles. My dad told me he was a conscientious objector and all the men in our yard hated him. Any disputes in this area were settled in the street. The men would take their shirts off and fight it out, and then shake hands; foul language was the norm and this was one tough place to be brought up.
There was one time when the Withers' had a fall out with another family. This was settled on the street. The headline in the Mercury, our local paper, that night was, 'The Battle of Providence Place.' The council during the war had a letter signed to say thanks to Hitler if he ever happened to drop any bombs around there. But I liked it. It was home and better than nothing.
However, one thing that did always stick out in my mind was the thick black smoke coming out of the chimneys when it was cold. I remember my mum burning
old shoes. It looked horrible even to me and the area was a haven for rats, fleas, and bed bugs
Robert Jackson, my Dad, was a big, well-built man who was slightly balding.
He always looked to be smiling but could not give a toss for anything: ''A spade is a spade", he'd say. His voice of words was crude to say the least and contained the most foul of language. He had tried to enlist in the army during the war but was turned down because of his feet. So he was put in the 'Home Guard' as a driver.
Our house was searched one day and a hundred-weight of sugar and ten pairs of shoes were found in the coal shed. No one knew how it all got there but my dad got six months prison in Leicester's Wellford Road. My dad drove a coal lorry.
Dad was walking up the entry one night from a night at the pub, and suddenly was arrested and taken by two military police to Aldershot Barracks. He had a friend who was on the run from the navy and hiding at our house. They got mixed up when they arrived at the barrack. The duty officer told them this is not Shirley Withers. My dad said, "I know that. I have been telling them that all the fucking way here!" My mum had long red hair, but I was the only other redhead in the family. She was beautiful looking. I'm biased but I think all mums look great. When doing the housework she would sing all the time. I can still remember all the songs nearly word for word. "It's my Mother's Birthday Today," ''Have I have Told You Lately That I Love You?" ''There'll Be Bluebirds Over the White Cliffs of Dover'' The odd time she went to the pub for a drink with my dad, she was always asked to sing and she would always oblige . She never told lies and it was she who made sure there was food on the table. It was she who made sure we got a Christmas present and when I needed a bit of love she was always there. She was my best friend. I remember she worked at the Spinner Shoe, and the Wyvern Pen.
Brian was my half-brother as my mum had been married before. He was such a good- looking bloke. He had wavy black hair, a bronze complexion, and he was always smiling. He was also a boxing fanatic and knew all the names of the boxers.
He taught me how to box.
After the War, he served in the army and was stationed in Egypt. He married a woman named Beryl and they had two good kids, Mick and Sue. I can remember when Beryl came to our house she would always make a fuss over me. I knew it was not because of my face because I could tell she meant it.
My brother Barry had thin blonde hair swept back wavy at the front with a pale complexion. He was a born leader-type. He would work all day and night if necessary and if he had the chance he could take over a situation. He was in the army stationed in Cyprus when there was trouble there. He was the Martial Arts type of our family and knew all the holds and pressure points. He taught me how to fight on the floor which came in handy in school.
He married Janet, who I knew from school. They also had two good kids named Garry and Kerry. Alan, my next brother, was nicknamed Joe and I don't know why.
'Joe' was more like my dad than any of us. He didn't give a toss about anything and was taller than the rest of us. His hair was the same as my dad's, though he had a bit more. He taught me the art of surprise in fighting and how to feint. He married Pat and they too had a lot of good kids. One of them was named Michael.
My sister Glenise was a sort of tomboy and could fight with the best of them.
She was bigger than me with mousey hair. She married big Jim White and I mean he was very big. He too was a fighter and together they also had a lot of good Kids.
In my early life I really did not have many friends. I liked where I lived though and of course I did not know any other way of life. I suppose it was a hard life because there was never enough food. Although my mum made sure we never went hungry.
We ate things like lard spread on bread with a pinch of salt, 'Echo' margarine on bread with sugar sprinkled on. Butter was unheard of in our house; everything was fried in lard .The only soap we had to wash with was called 'Fairly' - a big green block of clothes washing soap, and toothpaste was unheard of. We used what we could.
I used to climb a lot on the outdoor toilets in the backyards. I could usually find a bird's nest to watch and sometimes I would get to see the chicks grow up. Every time I approached one particular nest they would all sit up with their mouths open.
I used to pretend they were shouting at me though I knew they were expecting food. I got a lot of pleasure out of this, but had to keep an eye out for the parents renewing with food. If the mother bird flew back, I had to move away quickly. I had a thing about animals. Perhaps in my mend, my face did not bother them It was very hard for me to relate to other Kids. I often saw kids playing football in the street and I would want to play but they always had enough players. Then when they were finished they would walk away without speaking to me as if I was an ant on the ground. But the thing that haunted me was the deep stares.
I remember my mum sending me to houses where they were having a birthday party. She'd give me my own spoon and bowl so I could ask for ice cream or jelly. I remember thinking why they didn't ask me in. I knew the kids and could hear them inside playing, but they never did ask me in. I think my mum was making a point I was often picked on a lot and hit by other kids. Being small did not help, but I guess I thought that was what it was all about. My mum would often go out in the street and shout at them to leave me alone. My dad would stop my brothers from interfering by saying that I had to learn to stick-up for myself.
Once a day my mum would massage my face and hand with Vaseline to make the skin supple. This would also help my fingers move like my other hand. It took time but it slowly worked and my hair finally grew out too. Well, it was about this time that I ran out into the sheet one day and got run over by a bike. I broke the biggest bone in my leg and was back in the Royal hospital. I was put in a cast from my backside to my ankle and I had it on for ages.
Eventually it was taken off and it was not long before I was climbing again. One of the things I remember well was the winter warmers. These were old bean tins with holes punched in the sides fixed to a piece of wire. We used to make a fire inside the tin and to keep it glowing we'd swing it round our heads. It was great fun for a kid.
I was very disappointed to find out that all my little bird friends had grown up and flown away. Then one Saturday morning I heard the call coming down the street; ''Old iron he rag bone, old iron he rag bone." They were the rag and bone men. I went out to see them as they always had a horse cart and it was the only time I ever saw a horse. They were giving away baby chickens for old rags.
All the other kids had one baby chicken, so I ran home and gathered a few old socks and such and ran back out. ''Here you are mister I offered.
''Not heavy enough Son," was his reply. Back home the only thing heavy enough was my dad's army trench coat.
So, back out I went dragging this coat ''Here you are Mister." I offered again.
"That's better," he said. ''Pick yourself a chick."
I picked a lovely yellow one and named him 'Tin Ribs.' One reason for this was that he was surely skinny and two, that's what my dad called all the kids. My brother Joe made me a box to keep him in. Mum came home and asked where I'd gotten it. ''From a kid up the road who gave it to me,'' I told her ''Really?'' she said, not believing it.
I noticed that the other kids' chicks were dying off rather quickly and I asked Joe why.
"I don't think they're feeding them properly,'' he replied and explained further.
''They won't live on bread alone. They want beetles, spiders, worms and a bit of green stuff, that sort of things." He showed me where to find them and often helped me do it.
Tin Ribs soon put on weight and every bedtime I would sneak the bird into bed with me only to wake up and find him back in his box in the morning. My mum told me she would wait until I fell asleep and then she would put him back in his box.
She said it was better for him ''Okay mum," I said. She was sweet about it and I got the hint.
About once a month it was time for all the houses to put their beds in the backyards. Then they would pour hot water on the springs and out came the bed bugs. They were little red, round things. Tin Ribs had a birthday and he ate the lot.
I was back now to full climbing and when I was put to bed early I would often climb out of the window onto the guttering and pull myself up on to the roof. Then I'd sit by the chimney. I did this a few times and remember looking at the stars through the smelly thick smoke wondering what they were.
Then one day I got noticed. Some lady spotted me and knocked on our front door. ''Phyllis, have you seen your George?" she asked my mum.
"Well, I put him to bed about ten minutes ago, why?" asked me mum.
''Come here and look'' she took mum into the street and pointed to the roof.
''Oh my God, George!" my mum yelled. ''Get down here you little sod!'' ''No," I said. "You will hit me," "I won't. Get down! she said flercely.
''No, you will hit me," I persisted Now there was quite a crowd gathered by this time. ''Promise| mum? I said.
''Get down!" she screamed. It was then I heard the bells of the fire engine.
Someone had phoned the fire service. I was off the roof in a flash, into my room and I hid under the bed. Mum cane in the room and she was livid.
''Get over here you little bleeder," she said.
I whispered to her, sobbing my head off "You promised not to hit me."
She pulled me out from under the bed and cradled me in her arms. ''Do you realise you could have killed yourself?" she said.
"I won't do it again," I guaranteed her.
''I know you bleeding won't," she said. The Firemen thought it was funny. My dad didn't. I got the biggest hiding of my life the next day.
Then the windows were nailed shut The weather turned colder. Mum said it was time to put extra things on our beds. Things like dad's big army trench coat. It took him about two minutes to twig it! ''You little bastard!" he screamed. That was the second biggest hiding of my life. I remember this because it was Just before I started at my first school on Cristow Street.
Cristow Street Infant School
My first school was the Cristow street Infants School. It was situated at the big three-story red brick building with
top of Providence Place and it was
a large wall around it with big green gates. The playground floor was of tarmac construction, which was Just the right finish to take the skin off your knees and every time you fell down, it skinned your knees. There was also a nice little sand pit and some climbing frames.
On the day we started school most of the kids were crying when they were left there, but we all settled down and found ourselves a seat. The seats were arranged in two's but I sat by myself. This was how it was to be for me if I sat next to anyone they would move away. I can't remember how many times I was bit by things that were thrown at me from behind.
After a couple of hours of being told all about the school it was break time. We all then went into the main hall and were each given a bottle of milk and a Rusk (hard baked bread). ''Hey, this is okay," I thought as I collected all the bits the kids left and put them in my pocket.
The teacher, Miss Wright came over and asked what I was doing. "Oh, I am just saving the bits for Tin Ribs," I said.
''Who is Tin Ribs?'' she asked.
I explained that he was my pet chicken. ''Oh, you have a pet chicken, how Nice," she said Miss Wright was a nice lady and often gave me a bag of scraps for Tin Ribs.
One day I asked Miss Wright what Mongol meant. ''Why do you Ask?" she inquired.
''Well, that's what the children call me," I said. She asked me who and when I told her that everybody called me that she called the class to attention. She announced to the class my mane was Robert Jackson and anyone calling me anything else would be in serious trouble.
''So, what is Robert's name?" she asked everyone.
''Robert,'' they mumbled.
She asked again in a louder voice, 'What's his name?" ''Robert!'' they shouted.
''Then that is what you will call him. Do I make myself Clear?" 'YES, MISS!'' they shouted.
Hey, this is okay too, I thought to myself. I still got the stares and no one talked to me and the throwing continued, but at least I was not getting any verbal abuse.
The day finished and I was in the cloakroom putting my coat on when somebody grabbed me from behind, while someone else pulled my coat over my head. Then they gave me a good beating but eventually I managed to struggle free and turn to I ran all the way home. I picked Tin Ribs up and see the boys who had attacked me.
went straight upstairs to my little bed and cried myself to sleep while clutching my only friend.
My mum came home from work and inquired where I was. My brother Barry told her I was upstairs and had been up there since I'd come home from school. She came up to my room and found me asleep with Tin Ribs. She was stroking my face very lightly when I woke up. "Who has done this to you?" She asked gently as she could see I had been beaten up.
I then started to cry and told her, "I am not going back to that school."
She went out and came back with a doth and leaned my face up. It really hurt, especially where they had cut my face right on my burn scar. Mum never said much more about it. She chose instead to cry, which made me feel worse and the pain inside me was starting to make me hate all kids.
She put her arms round me and we sat there for a while. I told her I was sorry to have made her cry. She said it wouldn't always get dark at six and wouldn't last much longer. Then she said, ''Come on, let's go get something to eat'' I didn't want my dad to see me but Mum insisted. "You must eat. Come on, it's Desperate Dan's cow pie," she said.
That's what I always called it and so did my mum. So we went down and when dad came home he asked, ''What's up with George?" Mum told him that some kids had beaten me up. ''He will learn," he said.
''What the hell are you talking about? He's a fucking child you hateful bastard!'' she screamed at him as if he was the stupidest man on earth and she went out into the yard. I followed her.
That was the first and only time I can recall I ever heard my mum swear. I told her I would beat the kids up when I was older. She put her hands around me and in-between tears said, "I don't know what we can do."
A voice then came from behind us in the yard. "I fucking do," stated Brian my oldest brother, with my other brothers Barry and Joe standing behind him.
Mum shouted at Brian, ''Watch your tongue!" "Sorry mum," Brian said and then added, ''We are going to teach him to fight and when we're done he will hate us more than that'' pointing to the kitchen where my dad was.
''Don't swear, Brian," Mum said again.
He bent down to me, ''It's okay, Georgie," Brian always called me Georgie and still does.
''But I don't want to hit anybody," I said. He backed off a bit but added, "You ain't got any choice because until you do, kids will make your life a misery."
Mum piped in, ''George, do what they say."
All my brothers started to cheer, "That's the way mum," they chimed together.
It was right then that I knew what Brian meant about hating' them, but of course I really did not. It was very hard but I now had the desire and the hate. Brian told me from the start my hate and anger had to be controlled. First, it was Brian and the boxing, then Barry and the wrestling.
Come Martial Arts time, Joe did not show me much in the way of fighting skills.
Instead, he taught me the art of deceit He started by saying, ''Pretend you're scared.
Three Providence Place, Leicester
Cristow Street Infant School
The Morsey Tunnel
Ten Milk Tops Do Not Make A Penny
Cannon Ball George
The Ghost of Tin Ribs
Taylor Street Junior School
The Big Move - A New Beginning
Woodstock Junior and Infant School
John Laing Versus Kids
My Pal Jack
A White Blackbird and Mouse Eggs
Hello - Hello
The Ghost Train
The Boys Brigade
Christmas 1956 - A New bike
Beaumont Leys Senior School
Run For Your Life
Protection is Sweet
Bonfire Night - The Big Bang
The Ungrateful Gull
Goliath Versus George
The Teddy Boys Picnic
The Games/olympic Tricks
The Gang Hut: ''Get Bordolie'' ''Skegness So Boring''
The Great Co-op Van Robbery
To Cross Or Not To Cross
As Free As A Bird
The ''Milk Top'' Episode
The Paper (Boy George) Suddenly ''Weightless''
The Secret of Eternal Youth
To Cheat Or Not To Cheat - That is The Question
The Beaumont Butcher
To Find A Job
The Lovely Madge
The Coliseum - November 1963
My New Beadle Coat
Ill Take You Home again Kathleen
The Three Deuces
Tomatoes, Lovely Tomatoes
The Bravest Thing I Never Did
Once Upon A Time There Were Five Little Pigs - And There Still Are
Holy Night is Not AII Right
Hey, What's Up Doc?
Run Rabbit Run
The Wager And The Devil
Coalville: West End Working Men's Club
''Here You Are Then - Even Better Tomatoes''
The Army Game
Creosote or What?
The Gospel According To Tiddy
The china Doll/Tea And Whiskey
Underneath The Arches at Blackpool
Jealousy Get You Nowhere
The African Violet Mini
Game On Or Bacon
Teddy Black And The Curry
The Crazy Gang - First Encounter
The Time And Place
The Fancy Dress Night
Mad Martin And The Roof
Bernie's Inn - George Is Out
What The Hell Was That?
Oh, I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside
Viva La Espana
Life Or Death
Oh, No, Danny Boy
Broken Bottles And A Broken Back
What Was That Noise?
The Odd Couple
The Watch, The Cell And The House Brick
The Leicester Crazy Gang
The Happy Horses
Matlock And Jackson - The Chemists
The Big Lads Versus The Chanterelles
The Tote And Hang Them High
The Blonde Bombshell
Horses Don't Do This
The Battle Of The Beaumont WM Club
The White Russian
Leave The Dog Alone - It Bites
The Mauler - Hey!
Poaching Wild Ducks At The Farms
George, The Committeeman
The Jowett Javelin
The Origins Of Chuck
Smash And Grab What?
Wonder If She's Looking At Me?
Meet The Family
Sometimes You're Up And Sometimes You're Down
Fancy Getting Married
Are You Sure This One Is Mine?
Tomatoes In The Greenhouse And Marrows Outside
Joe.....Rest In Peace
Emma And The Seasickness Pills
Home And do
Time To Expand
The Football Dinner And Dance
The Morris 1100
Working For The Council
The End of Married Life
The Gamekeeper's Birthday
Was He The Black Pad Pervert?
The Worst Moment Of My Life
The Coarse Angler
The Fly Fisherman
The Sea Fisherman
The Shooing Man
The Gentlemen's Shoots
The Mysterious Case Of The Vanishing Lingerie
''Can't Take It, Hey?" - The Bakewells
Sticking Up For Home And Dry
Leicester City Blue Army
A Blast From The Past
The Bowl Turner's Arms
That Game Called Golf
New Club: Forest Hills, Botcheston
The Ping World Pro-Am
The Tax Bill And The Retention