The Definitive History of the Surname STABLES in Yorkshire

Site Search by PicoSearch. Help

The Autobiography of Brian Stables (Part 2)


Numbers 95 and 112 Doncaster Road - 1929 to 1947

This is the second part of Brian Stables's fascinating and very funny autobiography, which is written in his own words.

Brian was born in Tickhill in 1929 and emigrated to Canada in 1976. He is currently serialising his life story for us.

He has also provided a superb collection of photographs to accompany his story. Click the photo for a larger image.

The, to me, newly discovered problem with memories is that they can be selective. The ten-foot alligator, over a period becomes at least twenty foot long, and so it is with families. The family that I remember, the family of; William Richard, (Bunty) Stables was most likely just a normal family, doing their best in the face of much adversity, they were poor, but by no means despondent, they could always walk on the sunny side of the street.

They had been brought up in times that were almost medieval; it was still the time of touching your cap to the squire, being obsequious to your ‘betters’ and keeping the children humble, teaching them to be; ‘seen and not heard’ as the saying was. It had been ingrained into them, and with good reason, for if you upset the people whom you depended upon for employment, not only you, but your whole family would most probably be affected. I bring this out now as my following narrative may sound a trifle unkind in places. The family always, without exception, gave the best they could under their circumstances, to both me, and those around them.

I left home at age seventeen and, except for short visits, never returned. The reason I left was the oldest in human history, I felt I was being held down from achieving my potential, and, not having a decent education, nor prospects of ever getting one, I knew that the system my family lived under was not for me.

For my first seventeen years, these earnest relations taught me, amongst other things, that I must conduct myself to always bow to authority, be honest in every part of my life, and never ever get into debt, all worthy targets to be sure. I could understand the latter two but with everything else, I had problems, (I still do) you can imagine my life in the army!

The family who lived in 112 Doncaster Road comprised of Bunty, (William Richard Stables) his wife Lily, (Jackson) their sons, Frank, Herbert, and Arthur, together with Gertrude and Mary. Fred and Bill had both left to get married. Mary had a job as housemaid with the Nuttall family, of ‘Nuttall Mintoes’ (a well known confectionary) fame, in Bessecar. In the late thirties, both sisters married and both lived for a while as near neighbours on Worksop road. Mary married Dick, (Richard?) Bytheway and had two sons, Peter and Geoff. Gertie married Clifford Elliott who, at that time, enjoyed employment as a mechanic at the Tickhill Garage. They owned the only motor car the family had in those early days. We called it ‘Leaping Lena’ it was a Jowett and had a Rumble, or ‘Dickey’ seat where today you would find a trunk, (Boot). Later, he became self employed and, assisted by Frank, started making and selling caravan trailers, which were very popular then. They had two sons, Aubrey and Vincent. As time went by Dick found a job in Balby and he and his family moved to be nearer to this. Gertie and Cliff went to Carlton-in-Lindrick, where Gertie took up a job as an insurance agent and Cliff, due to the onset of severe arthritis, was happy to get a job the ambulance service.

He needed me to rid the room of all the creatures that were coming for him! “Gerrum Off!” he would cry, and I would dutifully wave my arms around for a bit and he would settle down.

Bunty was one of my favourite people, he drank beer whenever he got his hands on any money, and when, as was often, he was short of funds, he would still go down to the pub and earn a pint or two accompanying the pianist by singing the popular songs as requested by the customers. He smoked the most obnoxious pipe tobacco, it looked, and probably consisted of, solid tar with stripes of straw through it, this muck would continually clog his pipe stem, and he would spend time cleaning one pipe whilst smoking another. He always seemed to enjoy life in a very basic way. He would send me, with a pitcher, to the ‘Royal Oak’ public house for a fill of John Smiths Tadcaster Ale. I do not know how the law was circumvented; I can only guess that innocence is its own reward. Naturally, as the container was full to the brim, it was imperative that I sip some off the top, to avoid wastage, you understand. I always believed that he would not know! The Railway had at one time employed him, but when I came to know him, he was usually ‘between jobs’. He would get some money by performing odd work for the local Farmers, he was skilled at hedge making, he knew how to cut the hawthorn at just the right angle and twist it into itself, and this would grow into an almost impenetrable barrier. He could build a ‘Dry wall’ and would tell me that when practicing this art, one should never pick up a stone “unless tha’ has made thee mind up where it’s goin’ to go”. He would cut his lawn using a scythe, another skill at which I failed miserably. When he was dying, (in 1946) he asked for me to be with him. He had the DTs and he needed me to rid the room of all the creatures that were coming for him! “Gerrum Off!” he would cry, and I would dutifully wave my arms around for a bit and he would settle down. Grandma, all the time sitting in her chair and cackling away saying, “Tha’ sees how thy wicked ways come to haunt thee lad”, “EEH ‘he’s suffering nah tha knaws” “EEH ‘e ‘as been wicked” . This was the first time I became aware that my near death experience with Diphtheria had altered my personality to the point where people in ill health would ask me to sit with them, my maternal grandmother was another one. I believe they just felt that I ‘understood’ their condition better than others did, and indeed, this may be so.

Television in the fifties was black and white and restricted to one or two channels at different broadcast times throughout the day. She was convinced that the announcer could see her through the screen.

Grandma was undoubtedly the one who dominated the household; she was only a small woman, “Ay lad, thou’ art growing up, an’ I am growing down”, but you would not dare to violate her rules of conduct. She used to have me dusting, baking, cleaning the pigeons and chicken roosts, bringing in the vegetables, she disliked to see ‘idle hands’, for, as everyone knew, ‘idle hands’ made work for the Devil, if you wanted peace and quiet, then 112 ‘Donny’ Road was not the place to be. One of her favourite pastimes was her weekly ‘Afternoon Tea’. This was usually partaken on Sunday afternoons and eaten around the table in the front room. I tried to avoid visiting late Saturday and early Sunday, because she would invariably offer me the opportunity to assist in the preparation of this repast. There would be a multitude of cakes and buns, scones and small sandwiches with the crust cut off. The supply of tea was limitless and served in beautiful china cups and saucers. In later years, I realized that this was her escape from poverty, with which she had to live with for the rest of the week. She was always quoting the Bible as authority. Unfortunately, this regularly resulted in an explosion of swearing when confronting Bunty arriving home, “In his cups “as one might say. Despite this habit of preaching ‘unto others’, I have no recollection of her being a regular attendee at any place of worship. Her big moment annually, was the Remembrance Day parades in November, when she would ‘march’ with the British Legion, this she did in memory of her son Maurice. She was a beautiful woman. My Mum and Dad told me she had the most wonderful copper blond hair when she was young, the years were hard on her, and she seemed to welcome old age as an excuse to relax and let others take the strain. I do not blame her. She would invariably add,” If I live and God spares me life” after making an appointment for a future date.

Amongst the final and finest, memories of this lady my most treasured are of seeing her reaction to television. Television in the fifties was black and white and restricted to one or two channels at different broadcast times throughout the day. She was convinced that the announcer could see her through the screen and she would converse with him quite naturally, “He can’t see you grandma” old know-it-all Brian would say, “Of course he can lad, he says ‘Goodnight grandma’ every night!” and he did too. Because of this idea, she would always fuss and pull down her skirts right down over her knees, when sitting in a low chair in front of the screen. She was an advertisers dream; any new line of biscuits or household detergent etc. would have her telling either Gertie or Mary that she should have some of it straight away, I am happy for her that the modern pornographic material was not shown publicly during her lifetime.

He had lost a leg, he probably had a good idea where it was, but I never discovered that, nor the cause of this mishap.

Fred was married and lived in Balby, I have forgotten his wife’s name, they had one daughter, Una Hilda Eva. One girl, three names, not fair, I only got one name; I believe he had a job working in the railway marshalling yards. The railway was in its heyday and any job associated with it was usually well paid. I had very little contact with them but on the occasions I did visit, I always received a strong welcome.

Frank was a bachelor; he mentioned to me that he intended bringing his children up the same way, but with his lack of attributes and doubtful attraction to the opposite sex, I questioned his chances on that one. He seldom left the house for recreation of any sort; his entertainment appeared to be the wireless and the newspaper. He had lost a leg, he probably had a good idea where it was, but I never discovered that, nor the cause of this mishap, he always appeared to be having problems with getting his artificial leg to stay in place. Up to the war starting he seemed to occupy his time repairing watches on the kitchen table and telling his brothers how they should be attending to the racing pigeons, which they kept above the hencoop. At the outbreak of the (1939 – 45) war, he was obliged to take up employment at a quarry out on the Rossington road. Being an idle fellow, he did not take kindly to this. He appeared most relieved when it was all over and he could get back on welfare. As I noted above, he did make efforts to assist Cliff in his caravan project and I am sure his gesture was appreciated. He seldom had any opinion of originality, he was good at repeating what the Daily Herald, (a newspaper) had written however, and he did keep up with what was going on in the world. He was an inveterate smoker and rolled loose tobacco into cigarettes using a hand held machine. I never saw him drink alcohol nor indulge in colourful language whilst I was around, which was often.

Herbert, also a bachelor, was an innocuous individual, quite colourless to my young eyes; he did have a very great sense of duty to the family. To Buntys sometime voiced, chagrin, he was a teetotaler, a non-smoker and non-gambler. He was terrified of thunderstorms, a condition that placed him at my mercy; “I see a thunderstorm is forecast for tomorrow Uncle Herbert”. Nevertheless were it not for his income they would have found great difficulty in coping. He had a job at Maltby coalmine. The miners commuted there by bicycle or bus, one or two had motor cycles but there were very few cars around in those days. Herbert was another who had no outside interests, I can understand this to a point, inasmuch, the work was hard, it was physical and dirty, and I cannot help but feel that there was little joy in his life at all. He was fastidious in his habits and careful with whatever money his mother allowed him to keep from his pay. I never saw him argue with anyone. He never ever used bad language, always polite to the point of absurdity and never openly complained about his lot in life. Just trying to hold a conversation with him was hard work. He must have hated me for disturbing his equilibrium, but he never showed it.

He was enrolled into the Royal Artillery and, after basic training, spent his war years defending some isolated island off the coast of Scotland.

Arthur, dear Arthur, known to me as uncle Pobs, why ‘Pobs’ I have no idea. He suffered from schizophrenia. There was a conspiracy to hide this condition from the population of Tickhill in general, but it was impossible. In those days, any mental health problem was considered shameful and it was concealed to the best of ones ability. Poor old Pobs seldom had a quiet time. I have recently taken a night course on mental health problems learning how it affects different people in different ways, I now realise that his torment was even worse than I had imagined. He had a ‘voice’ telling him what to do and he could ‘see’ things that no one else could see, Grandma called him; “A right barm pot”. Quite often, when ‘they’ were looking for him, he would hide in places like the cabbage patch, and, if I was around at the time I would join him. In his more lucid moments he would train his pigeons by putting them in a carrier basket that was strapped to his bicycle. He would pedal off some miles into the country and release them to find their way home. The method of racing these birds was pretty much a mystery to me; I do have memories of the delight I felt when a pigeon would arrive home and then refuse to be caught. It was imperative that it be captured speedily so that the special, numbered ring could be ‘clocked’ into the official machine in good time! There was a lot of bad language spoken, particularly when it was known that your bird had arrived earlier than your neighbours, but they had still beaten yours due to your bird’s intractability. I found it amazing that when the war started and there was general conscription for the armed forces, poor old Pobs was called to the colours! The poor chap was barely able to function without supervision, and here he is, defending the Empire! He was enrolled into the Royal Artillery and, after basic training, spent his war years defending some isolated island off the coast of Scotland. He would not tell us, even after hostilities had ended, where it was, because it was a ‘secret’. He did get the occasional leave of absence and, to me it was obvious that if we had to depend upon poor old Pobs to defend us, then we might as well surrender immediately. I often wonder how his commanding officer and his comrades coped with his disability.

When things got too hectic he would be admitted into St. Catherine’s Hospital, on Tickhill Road Balby, this was to give grandma a rest, more than him, I fancy. He particularly disliked my mother and would let loose a torrent of invective whenever she approached him, poor mum used to get out of countenance with this treatment, but, what to do?

Read the next installment: Eva Stables (1907-1983)

Lily Stables(Jackson) 1877-1960.jpg (15998 bytes)
Lily Stables (née Jackson)
WHS age 19.jpg (10301 bytes)
William Henry Stables at age 19.
Send mail to Michael Chance & Andy Stables at with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright © 2004 Andy Stables
Last modified: May 10, 2010