When I arrived at Goldings late September 1942. with two other boys from the ever open door Stepney (as it was known) in Goldings
van, driven by Mr Mills who lived in one of the cottages near the printing shop, it was a Friday afternoon and we were ushered into
the dining hall where choir practice was in progress.
When it was over the three of us that is "Titchener, Landsbury, and myself John Horn" were asked by the choir master to go through
the scales with a view to being recruited to the church choir, which paid sixpence a week extra on your pocket money, we fell about
laughing as each one of us went through the scales while the other two pulled silly faces behind the choir masters back, we were
dismissed in disgust by the choir master who said none of us were any use to him or the choir.
We then had an interview with the vicar who explained to us how the school was run, and all the does and don'ts.
His name was Ken Sharples, when asked I told him I was from Manchester, he said that he was a Lancastrian also and came from
Preston, and that he had played professional football for Preston north end at the time they won the F.A, cup in 1938. I told him I
remembered it well, and that Preston beat Huddersfield by one nil after extra time, George Mutch scoring from a penalty I listened
to the match on the wireless I was ten years old at that time. About twelve months later he left Goldings to take over as the vicar at
St. Philips church in Bradford, Manchester. That happened to be the same part of Manchester where I was born. That is were the
new City Of Manchester stadium was built for the commonwealth games and now the home ground for Manchester City F.C.
After we spoke to the vicar we met the Matron I can't remember her name but among the boys she was referred to as Gussie. She
told us we would all be in Aberdeen House, and I was given the number ninety-nine, which was sewn, in my entire clothes and towels
Then later we met the governor the Rev. McDonald, They did not have a Headmaster at that time, but a few weeks before I left in
February 1945, the governor retired to become a country vicar, there was a Headmaster appointed to take charge but I never met
him as I left before he took over. The governor had two grown up children the girl was known as Miss Molly and the son Master
David he was awarded the Military Medal for bravery during the Italian campaign.
We then went on to the parade ground were all the other boys had assembled then we heard the bugle sound the ten minutes call to
let every one know it was nearly tea time, when cook house was sounded we all filed into the dining hall where we were put on the
end of the bottom table of Aberdeen house being new boys, you gradually progressed up the table as boys left and new boys came.
It took me two and a half years to progress to the top of the top table, where you and the boy opposite served the meals from a stack
of plates which were then passed down the table until everyone was served.
Friday evening was for relaxing one could go to the library and read or go in an adjoining room and play cards or dominoes and
listen to music played on a radiogram. The records at that time were ten inch Bakelite seventy eight r. p. m. That is where I first heard
Bing Crosby singing White Christmas December 1942. There was also a game room with a full and half-sized snooker table plus
three table tennis tables; each house took turns on Friday
And Saturday evenings for the games room so it came round to our turn about every three weeks.
Although there were quite a few of us I found no trouble getting a game of snooker though I was small for my age (I was known as
nipper Horn which stayed with me throughout my time at Goldings) because I could hold my own on the snooker table with much
older and bigger boys, probably because of the time I spent in our local billiards hall at the age of thirteen to fourteen, maybe that
was one of the reasons I was taken into care and then Barnardo's.
At ten PM we all returned to the dining hall for supper usually a round of bread a hunk of cheese and a mug of cocoa, then of to the
dormitory were I was allocated a bottom berth of a bunk bed again one had to progress in senior order to attain a top bunk.
About five minutes to eleven there was a bugle call for prayers everyone knelt by their beds to pray or not to pray according to ones
choice any way there was complete silence until lights out was sounded on the bugle and so ended my first day at Goldings.
I soon learned to settle at Goldings and get to know the strange language they used, I can still remember some of it after all these
years I will translate for you perhaps later boys will know if it went on until Goldings closed its doors for the last time here goes.
Tea or cocoa was grog, a penny was a steever, tuppence was a deuce. cheese was bung, diggy hi was beware some one is approaching,
plonk was steam pudding, a smoker was a dragger, if you sold something you asked for spot cash or a penny extra on Friday when
we had pay parade, if fine on the parade ground if raining in the recreation hut.
I only remember a few of the masters names such as Joe Patch the P. T. instructor, Mr Brookes sports master, Mr Purkis Aberdeen
House master, Harold DeBoeck (woofy) tinsmith shop master, Mr Jones (tutty) dining hall master.
The chef was a bully a man heavily built with big hands, when he knew I was a new boy he offered to shake my hand then crushed
my fingers in his grasp and held on for quite awhile smiling into my face I just gritted my teeth and stared him out although I felt a
lot of pain I would not give him the satisfaction of letting him how how much it was hurting he eventually let my hand go my fingers
were sore for days after that, I was never Mistreated by any other master or boy during the remainder of my time at Goldings.
I never reported the chef, but I warned any new boy to steer clear of him as he was a bully His favourite trick was to dash into the
dormitory as soon as the bugler put the bugle to his lips before one had chance to get out of bed and bungle you and your mattress
out on to the floor, I remember one poor lad he threw out of bed hitting a locker and badly hurting his ribs. Funnily enough I cannot
remember his name perhaps I never wanted too, he left suddenly when I had been at Goldings about twelve months nobody seemed
to know the reason why.
I made lots of friends among the older boys besides boys of my own age, some of the older boys were seventeen plus and they told me
about their early days at Goldings, how they would watch dog fights during the battle of Britain, the spitfires would come out of the
clouds firing at the enemy planes and tracer and machine gun bullets would be hitting the parade ground, there were dugout shelters
opposite the sick bay on the edge of the top fields, they got water logged and were not in use by the time I arrived at Goldings in 1942.
When there was an air raid on we would file through the governors quarters to the library until the all clear siren sounded.
During the summer and autumn of 1943 the army was practicing for the invasion of Normandy there was mock battles going on all
around Goldings you could see thunder flashes going off and hear the rattle of gun fire across the top fields. Once when we were
marching from the tinsmiths shop to the dining hall for lunch some squadie's appeared from the cover of the trees with their hands
and faces blacked out and twigs and leaves sticking out of their helmets and tunics and without a sound walked through our ranks
crossed the road and in a flash disappeared into the trees towards the top fields.
During that time there was lots of yanks in Hertford we could go to town on a Saturday afternoon and see the yanks in their work
uniforms slouching along in three's going for their meals to a Sunday school they used as a mess with their mess tins knife fork and
spoon dangling from their belts.
Not the smart buddies as when they were out on the town chasing the girls.
More excitement was to come for Goldings boys for after the D. Day landings in nineteen fort-four the doodle bugs started coming
over one Sunday morning just before reveille we heard the drone of a doodle bug passing over head all in the dormitory clustered
round the windows and we watched it as it headed towards Hertford, we heard the engine splutter and stop we all ducked below the
window ledge as it exploded and all the building shook and the windows rattled, later we learned it had demolished the castle cinema
and blew out most of the shop windows in the main street.
We went to view the damage that afternoon but we were not allowed to go near the castle cinema.
That only left the county cinema to go, to as another cinema in the centre of town had been turned into a radio and valve factory
about a year before, soon after that event the V2s the rockets started dropping one exploded in a farmers field by some cottages a
short distance from the bottom fields. Another rocket came down at the village of Bengeo I was told a number of cottages were
damaged but no one was injured, when these rockets dropped you first heard a thud as they hit the ground just seconds before the
That summer due to the doodle bugs and rockets all summer leave was cancelled and nobody could go home, for two weeks in
August all workshops were closed and we spent two weeks holiday in Goldings with swimming gala's, and sports events, treasure
hunts and some free afternoons in Hertford or any where else within reason there were cash prizes of course for winning teams.
There was a new influx of boys transferred to Goldings that summer because of extensive damage to a Barnardo home at
Kingston-upon-Thames due to a doodle bug or rocket.
Kingston was the base for Barnardo's pipe, drum, and bell ringers whom gave concerts to raise funds; they came to Golding's with a
few older boys and were absorbed into the different houses.
Now and again the band would go out on tour to various concerts and fetes, they once gave a concert in the gym at Golding's they
really did put on a good show
The pipes and drum band once led the school to the big church in Hertford, for a special service for some thing or other, it was a
change from being led by the bugle band.
One boy who came with the band from Kingston, who was a bugler had entered a bugle call competition and won it, the prize was a
silver cornet, it was a joy to hear him play the last post and reveille on remembrance Sunday in the chapel.
I can't recall his name now, but I do remember the army, marines, and air force all wanted him to join their military bands.
School leave could be taken at Christmas Easter and August for two weeks a lot of boys had been fostered out from being infants
and came to Goldings at fourteen to learn a trade so their foster parents would pay their fare and have them home for all their leaves.
I was unlucky as I had parents but had been taken into care by court order and would remain in Barnardo's until I reached the age
of eighteen I knew this was the situation but my mother wrote to the Governor during my first Christmas at Goldings, but to no
avail leave was refused so it was three years before I would see my mother again as she did not have the health or the funds to travel
from Manchester to Hertford, we wrote to one another quite often and she would send me a parcel every now and again.
Another coincidence happened to me shortly after arriving at Goldings, for the first four weeks I spent doing domestic work so I
applied to go into the tinsmiths shop I was told I could go in straight away while putting down for other trades one could wait months
even as long as a year, my way of thinking was as soon as I got into shop the sooner I would be out on a job.
During the first week in the tinsmith shop the shop master Harold DeBoeck called me into his office and started asking questions
about were I lived and how I came to be in Barnardo's. I told him I came from Droylsden, Manchester. After about an hour of
answering questions, he told me he had a daughter who was engaged to a dental mechanic who was in the army in the dental corp.
Then he asked me if I knew a Sunny Bank Avenue in Droylsden, I answered that I knew it very well it was only a short distance
from were I lived. He then said that was were his daughters boy friend lived and that his wife and daughter had visited there to meet
his parents during the last summer but he himself did not go with them.
That Christmas it seems that masters wives and relations volunteered to serve the boys at table for their Christmas lunch. So
DeBoeck who had brought his daughter along introduced me to her and we talked about were she had been and places she had
visited on her trip to Droylsden.
In August nineteen forty-four she married her boy friend at St. Mary's Church Droylsden, were my son Mark was baptised in the
same Church in nineteen fifty-eight.
In the summer of nineteen forty-three we were told that in August Golding's would close down for three weeks and that all who
wanted to go home must ask there parents or guardians to apply by letter. So again I tried to get home, my married cousin who
lived in Salford applied to have me but again I was refused permission to go, we were told that those who had no where to go would
be placed to work on a farm for three weeks, but if they had a friend who's relations were willing to take them in they could stay
with them, as I had a good friend at that time David Brown who came from Cardiff who asked me if he wrote to his Grandmother
would I like to go home with him, so that is where I spent my only time outside of Goldings in the two and half years I was there.
During my first few months at Goldings the regime was quite strict one could only go into Hertford on a Saturday afternoon on
Sunday afternoon we would after go on organised walks say two houses together accompanied with masters and prefects, one could
not skive off it was strictly compulsory.
Eventually they relaxed the rules somewhat and Saturday and Sunday we were allowed to go any where alone within reason of
course there were no Sunday cinema's at that time.
Saturday default was a regular punishment for misdemeanours such as being late back, smoking, and getting caught out of bounds,
scrumping apples from the local orchids etc. I was caught dragging a number of times and had to do Saturday defaults, we had to
report to the duty prefect every hour so we could not skive off somewhere I still owed the school two Saturday defaults when I left
I remember four of us going out of bounds one summer evening we got out of the bottom fields and strolled down the lane towards
the sand pits as we walked along a lane we came to a searchlight battery manned by a number of A.T.S. girls we stopped and chatted
to them for about a hour, there was a anti aircraft battery close by, but before we could visit it we heard the ten minute bugle call in
the distance, we had to run like hell to get back in time for supper so as not to get caught out of bounds we just made it by the skin of
our teeth and joined the end of the queue as they filed into the dining hall for supper.
Most spring and summer evenings we spent swimming or playing cricket.
David Brown and I had a plot of land on the allotments opposite the gym surprising how much money you could make from a
tuppenny packet of seeds with a lot of hungry boys clamouring to buy our lettuce, radishes, spring onions and even cabbages which
they would buy and eat raw, some of the masters would buy young plants off us to transplant in their own gardens.
During the late Autumn and Winter months we had Wednesday afternoons free from shop work to play inter house football, each
house had two teams a first eleven and second eleven so there was two leagues to play in, then towards the end of the season there
were two knockout cup competition. They also had a school team, which played Saturday afternoons those boys whom were selected
could go to town on Friday evening and were allowed a late pass.
I met one of the school football team when I went to the bench ceremony at Waterford his name was Jose Orrello I watched him play
many times and he scored lots of goals for the school.
We had a film show Wednesday evenings in the gym they showed some quite good films although some were a bit old which I had
seen before I came into Barnardo's. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday we had night school one night maths and English two night's
geometry and practical drawing.
In the spring and autumn we boys in the tinsmiths did a lot of farm work as Mr DeBoeck drove the tractor, we would plant potatoes
in the fields that Goldings gave up for the war effort, and on some of the local farms especially farmer Little who's farm was just
outside Waterford, then in the autumn we would go potato picking.
Barnardo's would get paid for the work we did and we got a small amount put in our bank account, we liked working for George
Little as he would line us up when we finished work at twelve o'clock on Saturdays and give all of us a shilling apiece, we could put
money in the school bank or take one shilling out after pay parade on a Friday you had to give a good reason if you deeded to take
more than a shilling out.
Late in nineteen forty-four two of my friends and I went to have a talk to the Governor about going out on a job, we were senior boys
by now in the tinsmiths shop and offers of jobs had been slow coming in of late so we asked him if he could do anything about it, he
promised to look into it for us so about two weeks later my two friends went out on jobs to a firm in New Southgate in London it was
not as tinsmiths but doing metal press work for a engineering firm their names were Peter Sovereign and Peter Drabble.
They were good friends and would come back to Goldings occasionally on a Saturday afternoon and get me a late pass so they could
take me to see a film then buy my tea in a cafe in Hertford.
One day they came and Joe Patch refused to give me a late pass as I had a Saturday default to do so they had a word with the
Governor who overruled Joe Patch and gave me a late pass.
They told me they were going to ask their Boss if he would employ me, and would let me know the next time they came to see me.
They were as good as their word and came again in February nineteen forty-five to tell me there was a job waiting for me, but
unfortunately I had already left to go on a job at a coach building firm in Ware not far from Hertford.
One Saturday afternoon I went into Hertford and met one of the Goldings boys who told me that Sovereign and Drabble had been to
Goldings to let me know there was a job waiting for me with them in New Southgate I often think that if I had waited another few
weeks before taking that job in Ware my life may have gone in a completely different direction
I heard about three years later through Barnardo's old boy's yearly magazine that Peter Drabble had immigrated to Australia, who
knows? I may have gone with him.
I arrived at Stepney in September nineteen forty two with my four year old brother Kenneth, he was taken on to the boy's garden
city Woodford, so when I had been at Golding's about six months I went to the office to ask if there was anyway to find out how my
brother was coping, the secretary Mr Maslin told me that it was possible for me to visit him. So he arranged for me to go to
Woodford on Mr Mills lorry and see my brother.
I went two more times over the next twelve months and got to know Mr Mills quite well, he would drop me off at Hertford North
station on the way back were I would pick up a evening paper for him and deliver it to his house were there would be a cup of tea
and a piece of cake waiting for me.
He was a really nice gentleman and would always ask how my brother was getting on at Woodford, the next time I asked to go to see
my brother I was told he was no longer at Woodford and that they would let me know were he had been moved to but I never could
find out were he was.
When I went back to Stepney to get fitted out with new clothes on leaving Goldings I stayed at Woodford for three nights while
waiting to be taken to my lodgings in Ware, I recognised the house mother who I had seen on my visits to see my brother, I asked
her if she remembered Kenneth Horn and was happy to hear he was in the very next cottage, I rushed over to see him he was now
seven years old.
The house mother took me to the dining room were about fourteen little boy's were having their tea, she asked them whose big
brother is this all their little hands shot up with shouts of mine, then I heard one chair scrape on the floor as it was flung back and
my brother came running to me and threw his arms around me saying John! John! In a husky voice, it was one of the most moving
moments of my life.
Two of the saddest occasions at Goldings while I was there were the death of two of the boy's. The first was a boy named Frank Hall
who was in Mount Stephen house he died of Meningitis early on in my time there.
The other boy was in my house Aberdeen Sydney Smithson a Yorkshire lad I knew him quite well, one day I noticed he had a slight
limp and asked him what was wrong with his leg, he said that when he had been home for his last leave that he had fallen of a bike
and hurt his knee.
His leg got worse over the next few weeks and he seemed to be dragging his damaged leg, so he was taken into sickbay and a few days
later transferred to Hertford County Hospital were it was found that he had cancer in the knee and it was to advanced for treatment
so he had his leg amputated above the knee. He seemed to make a good recovery, and after having a false leg fitted he returned to
Then about six months later he began feeling unwell and went back into sickbay, a few weeks later the Governor informed us
Smithson was seriously ill and that the cancer had spread to his stomach and that it was just a matter of days before he died he was
about seventeen years old.
All the school attended the funeral service in the chapel, and the boy's of Aberdeen house followed the cortege to Waterford cemetery
were both Frank Hall and Sydney Smithson are buried.
Christmas nineteen forty-four came along and Christmas leave was resumed, about half the school went home that left a lot of gaps
on the domestic scene so they offered extra pocket money for volunteers always ready to earn a bob or two I volunteered to work in
the dining hall, it turned out to be a very good move as I was chosen to wait on tables in the staff dining room we had the same meals
as the staff and pretty good it was to.
There was only four of us left in the tinsmiths shop that Christmas and so DeBoeck invited us for dinner at his house on Boxing day,
I being the senior boy had to pick up the late passes and take the other three to his house at Hertford Heath were he lived.
Mrs DeBoeck made roast rabbit for dinner with roast potato's and other veg, followed with pudding and mince pies.
His daughter although married was living there and her husband was home on leave she was about eight months pregnant, I later
heard she had a little boy some time in January so the old bugger DeBoeck was now a granddad.
I had a good chat with his son in law having both lived in Droylsden, Manchester, But both coming from different sides of the fence
me from a council school (when I attended) and him from a grammar school he seemed a decent chap for all that.
His wife chatted to me about their wedding in August when all the DeBoeck's and friends descended on Droylsden, for the wedding
and she showed me the write up in the Droylsden, Reporter.
The Reporter is a weekly publication that is still going in these parts, I suppose I could visit the local library and look at the micro
film for August nineteen forty -four that way I could find out her married name and how old DeBoeck was at that time.
Governor MacDonald left in January nineteen forty-five, and I was chosen to make him some gifts from the tinsmith shop such as a
four pint kettle, a fish kettle, three tier steamer, buckets and pans.
It was soon after, that I was offered a job at a coach building firm in Ware Hertfordshire to become a panel beater. I accepted and
a week later I was supposed to leave Goldings, but I reported to sick bay feeling a bit unwell with a heavy cold, and for the first time
since I came to Goldings the sister kept me in sick bay for five days.
I went back into shop on the next Monday and DeBoeck took me into his office and lectured me for about an hour of all the dangers
and pitfalls that awaited me on the outside world. That evening in the dining hall just after prayers, Joe Patch uttered those immortal
words "Horn report to Matron after supper to get fitted out your leaving us tomorrow".
So next morning I said goodbye to Goldings to ride off into the morning sunlight to a better life I hoped.
But on reflection I could not help thinking it was not so bad after all and the happy moments by far outweighed the sad, and I did
make a lot of friends whom I will miss.
I could say that's the end of my story but it isn't really, for did I not find the Goldings old boys web site and made more friends with
Goldings boys who went to Goldings many years after me. So good luck health and happiness to all Goldings boys were ever you