The Definitive History of the Surname STABLES in Yorkshire

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The Autobiography of Brian Stables (Part 5)


Raymond "Bob" Stables. 1927 – 2002

This is the fifth 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.

brian & bob egypt 1947.jpg (10445 bytes)
Brian and Bob. Egypt, 1947.

‘Bob’, and in case there is some curiosity regarding the nick name, I should mention that our maternal grandfather called him ‘Raybob’, as to why that would be, is also a mystery to me, and I pass it to you.

Bob was called Ray to those that knew him in later years. To me however I could never get around to that, there were times people thought there must have been a third brother hanging around somewhere.

His greatest distinguishing trait was that he lived his life as true to the Christian faith as is humanly possible, he prayed for me almost from the day I was born to the day he died, he never gave up. ‘Though, it must have stretched his faith to the limits at times. Nevertheless, I always had the greatest respect for his views and loved him without reservation. As children we shared everything, well, he shared, I took. He certainly had ample opportunity to practice his legendary proficiency at forbearance on me, particularly in our early childhood. Selecting a quotation from the a holy book is a well accepted method of religious devotees to reinforce an argument, but he took this “Turn the other cheek” stuff to extremes; when we were attending school together he was often the cause of my being continually hauled up in front of the headmaster accused of brawling. I could not abide his gentle forgiving nature, particularly when others took advantage of him, even in those days I was an advocate of “an eye for an eye”, which, those who are still awake, will recognize as another quotation to validate a position.

After Tickhill School he attended Doncaster Polytechnic and, in later years, The Bible College in Derbyshire, he also attended the University in Bristol, all of which gave him a solid background for his vocation in the Social Services, It was one of those happy instances of a round peg in a round hole, a rarity at any time and more so in those days. He was close to completing his course at the Bible College when June, his bride to be, contracted a severe illness and he was unable to take up his wished-for position as a missionary in the Congo. This most likely saved his life because a few of the young men that did go; who were members of his cadre, were murdered by the Mau - Mau, a terrorist group of those days. It was at the time of his final finishing course; when he and his group, were obliged to make a walking tour of England. They were given a large handcart to contain their possessions, the intention being that they should acquire skills, gain experience, and learn the self determination that they would require in their future vocation, it was then, that he was subjected to a large and undeserved, trial of faith. I, need I say, was the culprit. I lay on my back in the gutter, I realized that I had landed by a group of young men singing hymns and preaching the Gospel. I looked up, there was Bob strumming away on his guitar

It was about 1950, I was in the army stationed at a camp just outside Chester, waiting to go over to Germany; the ‘cold war’ with the threat of nuclear bombs was a popular sideline in those days and my Regiment was using the Tank ranges in North Wales to practice skills in order to oppose the largest army in the modern world; that of the Soviet bloc. The popular fiction being that we would be able to do something about the threat of the Soviet invasion into Western Europe. I, as was my custom in those heady days, had been drinking far too much and had been forcibly ejected from a pub, for causing a disturbance. I rolled over the sidewalk and, as I lay on my back in the gutter, I realized that I had landed by a group of young men singing hymns and preaching the Gospel. I looked up, there was Bob strumming away on his guitar. He never missed a beat, “Hello Bry” he said, “Hello Bob’ I croaked, - a most original dialogue you have to agree. He picked me up, dusted me down and introduced me to his companions; they must have decided that I could be just the challenge they were looking for, and invited me to accompany them back to their lodgings. He shared his supper of cold cuts and lots of tea. As I said: A real Christian. As always there is a Yang to every Yin, and upon my return I got punished for being out of barracks without permission, I had broken the army curfew by staying with him overnight, it was just to enjoy his company for a while; he was that kind of person.

I never ceased to be amazed at his life of serendipity, he believed, and it became so. As he pointed out, anyone can do it. It is a bit easier for some, than for others I sometimes think, but he proved it can be done.

He married June (Horton). A most beautiful and intelligent young lady whom I adopted as a true sister, we argued and shared laughs, just as though we were indeed real siblings, it never struck me as being incongruous, and I still look upon her as a true sister to this day. Concurrent with his missionary training she had been training as a nurse in order to take up a position at the Congo Mission where they planned to go, but she contracted TB in her hip and it was this that caused the upset of plans for them both, and stopped them from being missionaries. They loved each other so very much, like a real life Romeo and Juliet; she was devastated when he died, for they filled each others life completely. They had two children; Mark and Joanna, both worshipped Bob, and one could see why.

Prior to that, about 1945/46 Bob was conscripted into the RAF and posted to Egypt, he did not think much to the idea of the discipline required but he soon displayed his skill with a typewriter and got a job as a Clerk in 107 MU, about the ultimate in cushy postings I would think. In 1947 I found myself in a transit camp on the Suez Canal, about an hours drive away from his camp. I could not get leave of absence because I was due to go to Palestine later that week. I think the authorities were frightened that I would miss the train, (these ran through the Sinai and were targets for the Irgun group of terrorists, or freedom fighters – depending on your point of view, and, of course, who wins). I decided that I could not possibly miss this opportunity to visit my big brother, and off I went to see how he was getting along. He did not seem a bit surprised that I should turn up out of the blue and he organized an overnight stay for me as though it was the most natural thing in the world. Need I say I was in trouble upon my return?

He was driving along one day, wondering how all the other traffic could drive so fast in such a thick fog, it was only when he stopped the car that he discovered that it was only his own car's windshield and windows that were steamed over!

He appeared to have no mechanical bent whatsoever; I have known him to drive his car until it ran out of petrol, and then push the starter button until the battery ran down. He was driving along one day, wondering how all the other traffic could drive so fast in such a thick fog, it was only when he stopped the car that he discovered that it was only his own car's windshield and windows that were steamed over! I borrowed his car one day and had quite a fright when I braked and only the offside front brake was working, I queried him on this and his reply was; “I thought there was something wrong with that”! Another big passion, other than his faith, was nature; he appeared to believe that all animals, birds and plants were put there for his especial enjoyment. It is possible; being him, that this was indeed so. Once, when accompanying him as he drove along the narrow roads of Cornwall, he frightened the life out of me by focusing on a bird that flew by, craning his neck and digressing about what a rare sight this particular “juvenile, female” whatever it was, happened to be in this particular locality. He seemed to lose track of the fact that the car would need some attention too, I think I just got his attention back to the road in time to keep myself from having a heart attack and save some cyclists from being run over. To me a bird is characterized into two groups; large and small, perhaps I could distinguish a seabird from a land bird at a pinch, but to him they were individual creatures of God and worthy of his protection, which meant gaining knowledge of their habits and needs. He once let me down in this regard: For years whenever my son asked what a particular bird was, I would immediately mutter; “You should ask Uncle Bob”, whilst attempting to look it up in a book. Bob was visiting us in Canada on one occasion and a bird came by, “What is that one Uncle Bob?” “I dun no” came his response, “It is a particular North American species of ------- I think” It was a revelation to me that there were different birds in North America as opposed to Europe.

The first animals I remember him keeping captive, was when we were very young and lived at 95 Doncaster Road. He had some white mice that he kept in a large cage in the garden, he named them individually, I could not tell one from the other but he convinced me that he could. He spent a lot of time watching their antics; they ran around the various ladders, wheels and mazes that he and Dad built for them and would fuss if one should look even slightly out of sorts. It broke his heart when some unknown person killed them all by cutting their throats and leaving them for him to find. He was devastated. So were I and the rest of the family. We never found out who did it, not that it matters I suppose. His ‘post traumatic stress’ therapy was to scrub the cage clean of all the blood and bloody carcasses and to bury them in the garden; we did this together and held a rather tearful burial service for them.

He was a sucker for stray cats, poor mum used to go frantic when Bob would come home carrying some forlorn looking cat, “Look Mam, it is Silver” he would say, whilst cuddling a scruffy grey animal. The only other creatures I remember him having was many years later, when he was living in Cornwall, and he started breeding birds, I think they were Finches or Canaries, (or something) he was quite successful at this, and would patiently explain to me how to breed in, or breed out, the different characteristics that were required in order to achieve success at exhibitions, not that winning anything ever bothered him, but he was pleased to know that ‘his bird’ was good enough to win.

He was a much sought after lay preacher, and his sermons were always well researched so that his topic would be easily understood. It was typical of Bob that when he received the diagnosis of his Lymphatic cancer, his immediate action was to research a sermon on death, and the way different peoples of the world faced this situation. “After all” he said to me, “I am now an expert on dying, particularly now that I see it from a personal perspective”.

He always took pleasure in his gardens, and, as he was climbing the ladder of promotion in his profession he would be regularly obliged to move his home to different places around England, thus he was afforded ample opportunity to practice his skills in this field. It was another typical action of his, and one of the last things he ever did, when, knowing his death was imminent; he planted some perennial flowers, so that they would bloom for June’s enjoyment after he had passed away.

Read the next installment: Teen Age

Bob & June circa 1990.jpg (25992 bytes)
Raymond Stables and his wife, June Horton. 1990s.
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Last modified: May 10, 2010