A Reproduction of the Original Article Published in Hampshire Magazine, March 1973
FETCH me two cornets, here’s a penny,” my cousin asked me. Yes, Carr’s sweet shop was opposite our rambling old home in Bridge Street, known as “The Chestnuts” because two of these huge trees stood on the front lawn.
Ice-cream was a new kind of luxury back in 1902, terribly expensive at a halfpenny each, so we thought at that time.
At the great age of six I went into business; after all, a penny a week does not go far, especially when there was a sweet shop just across the road and no fear of getting run over.
I began collecting horse manure with bucket and shovel and sold it a penny a bucketful. There were tons of the droppings in our road, and so there was in High Street around the Town Hall. My father was mayor at the time.
Thanks to following the horses (I’ve never put a shilling on one in my life) I soon made enough money to encourage my sister to assist me, paying her fourpence in the shilling.
Another occupation was the collection of motor-car numbers, at that time the only Andover garage was Randall’s at the west end of Bridge Street.
Cars were few and far between, about one every two hours or so, with registration numbers such as AA 26, once or twice a Southampton car with the town’s letters CR, or a London visitor, LA, LB, or LC.
What excitement there was when a real London bus arrived to commence a local service; it had solid tyres and was much higher than those we use today.
This red monster retired to the Market Place in Bridge Street each evening. It had a most difficult job to take the sharp corner, where a crowd would assemble, fully expecting to see it topple over.
But many residents were too scared to risk being taken for a ride so it returned to the city.
Our back garden was on the left hand bank of the River Anton, and here too was our coach house which later became the site for the new Methodist Chapel. The land being donated by my father, he was invited to lay a large stone at the main gate, and later we two children each laid our own stones up in the Sunday School room walls. You can see two long rows of these stones today, laid by local lads and lasses.
One event which created great amusement was when the circus elephants were brought down to the river, opposite our back garden. The huge beasts would lay down in the river and wait until a crowd of spectators assembled on the mill side, then with their trunks they would shoot a cascade of water into the crowd, completely saturating one and all.
Having now amassed a fortune from the sale of manure, (18s. 4d. less commission to sister Olive) I spent most of my money on fishing tackle.
But I was not getting sufficient return for my outlay of cash; my available angling area was reduced by half, due to the chapel extending along our bankside.
Also it now seemed that I had caught most of the trout between the bridge and the Town Mill, so I decided to seek sport elsewhere. I had heard there was a large trout about a mile upstream and that none of the members of the club could catch it.
So one morning I went and located it; yes, what a beauty, all of 4lb. It had to be mine.
With my sister we held a council of war. We decided to go after the “big ‘un” without delay; having dug some worms for bait we stole away from home without waiting for teatime. Reaching the scene of action we had to hide in some bushes for about two hours, because an angler was continuously casting his fly.
A very low branch nearly touched the water, and beneath lay the trout. It was impossible to place a fly correctly.
At last he packed, cursing riverside trees, and went.
It was now our chance. First cast, by pure Iuck, my worm fell in front of the trout and it took it. What a battle as I played it! it took 20 minutes to tire it, and I passed the rod to sister Olive, telling her to coax the fish to the bank, which she did. I grasped it with both hands and tumbled backwards into the nettles.
Victory, but we dare not carry our prize home in daylight.
Unknown to us one of the angling members had seen all from the opposite bank.
We went into a copse to await the night, and when darkness arrived we were both scared stiff, so we crawled into a fowl house and must have gone to sleep like the hens.
We were awakened by voices and a carriage light shining into our faces; peering in was a policeman and the member of the club.
“Go on, arrest them,” said the angler.
“No, they be too young, ‘sides, what’s a fish matter?”
“Must weigh all of 5lb; yes, you are right, constable, it don’t look so good with a pound of fowl droppings adhering to it. Let them keep it; may be just as well this fish is out of our water, members were getting demented, being unable to catch it?”
Half of Andover had been searching for us, thinking we were drowned. Our parents were
frantic, me, aged six, my sister aged four were not unduly distraught; in fact we both
felt highly elated, although we were sent straight to bed.