This post was updated on .
I want you to imagine someone telling you, "Oim gorn sharpin downa poost arfice". You'd probably work out that they were saying, "I'm going shopping down the post office" but it might take you a little while. That was the accent of the rural folk from the county of Suffolk and it's not unlike the way my parents would have sounded when they first came to Shamley Green. My dad and mum were both bright and they would have soon adjusted their phrasing but their accent always remained. Not long ago I heard a Suffolk man who was holidaying in Wales speaking and immediately I thought of my father. This memory tells some of what I know of my dads life and, as always, I thank my siblings for their much appreciated input!
My father was born in the April of 1899 in the small town of Eye in Suffolk. In his growing up years he lived at No.27 Cranley Hill, in a house that no longer exists. His parents, Walter and Caroline Tuffs, had five children, two girls and three boys. Their first child, who was described as not quite the full ticket, was Christopher, who sadly died in his early teens. Then came two daughters, Adeline and Rose, who were followed by Leonard and then my father. Regretfully, I know nothing at all about any of their early years.
My dad was christened Henry Walter Tuffs but was always known as Wally. When he came of age he had to leave the safety of his home to play his part in what became the first global war. He served with the Warwickshire Regiment and, unlike his beloved brother Len, he survived that time of monstrous mayhem. Immediately after that conflict ended he chose to serve in Ireland in what were to be some of the last of the troubled times of British rule. I had no knowledge he ever went to Ireland until I was informed of it recently by my sister Violet. It does, however, explain a lot about dad for such an experience moulds a man. It also explains why he'd often sing Irish songs. One song Violet remembered well went thus..
He had no father to take his part,
nor yet a mother to break her heart.
But he had one friend, and a girl was she,
who would have lain down her life for McCaffery.
I remember Dad singing that song, and the melody and some of the words are etched forever on my mind. Indeed, during the many oak table gatherings we brothers have sung it, sometimes arguing about the words for people's memories differ. I swear I can recall dad singing the following words at the songs end....
Not a sound was heard, not a bugle note,
as McCaffery fell in his bloodstained coat!
I can recall many things my father would sometimes say, to no one in particular, for I'm sure he was just thinking aloud. Sayings that would have come from his time as a soldier, such as "If the Sergeant drinks your rum, never mind." or "I have no pain dear mother now, but oh I feel so dry." All my siblings could add the lines that complete those sayings, for we all grew up hearing dad say them The saddest words he would ever say, were said yearningly, and they were, "Poor old Len." When he wistfully uttered that line we'd know our father was thinking of his brother who'd died in that wretched war. It would have been just like my brother Bob, losing his brother Len when the two were only teenagers..........Unthinkable!
When World War Two began my Dad was forty years of age and yet he still chose to serve. I've no doubt he had many reasons but one, I know for certain, was it would guarantee an income for his large family in the uncertain years to come. This time he joined the Pioneer Corps and his rank at the start was that of a Sergeant. For part of those years he was in charge of prisoners of war, many of whom were our own, 'Conscientious Objectors.' These people he described as 'conchies,' who he said were brave men sticking to their principles. Throughout the time history knows as 'The Blitz,' when the enemy endlessly rained bombs on our major cities, my dad was there. One of his duties was to help the victims of these barbarous air raid attacks and he did so in Liverpool, Glasgow, as well as in London itself. In what must have been harrowing circumstances he somehow escaped any major physical injury but personal illness came with a vengeance!
It arrived at my mother's door when she was notified that he was dangerously ill with pneumonia and she wanted to visit him. But he was sick in the city of Carlisle, in far away Cumbria, so all she could do was worry as she looked after their beloved children. All this occurred in 1943 and my sister Violet has a fascinating story of this time. She remembers dad being sent home on convalescent leave looking very thin and tired out. She was about twelve years of age when he told her the following story. He recalled at the worst part of his pneumonia that he was climbing up a ladder. In his delirium he recalls reaching the top and standing there was St Peter himself who spoke ten words to our father. They were, "You can't come in yet, your family still needs you!" My sister described that as a near death experience and I completely agree.
I have told in earlier stories of dads marriage to Emma Oakly and of their time together. I have written of his subsequent marriage to my darling mother and of the many obstacles they both faced before settling down in Shamley Green. But I have not yet written what I know of dad the man and what made him tick! My brother Gordon once told me that dad had to leave Suffolk for his refusal to be subordinate to any man meant he was running out of employers who'd give him work. Knowing dad and his pride, plus the pride he instilled in his offspring, that made enormous sense. He'd once told his daughter Violet that after the war he'd had to stop wearing a cap, because he'd be expected to doff it respectfully to his so called betters. He said that he'd take his hat off politely to any lady but never to a man, for all men were equal!
Something impressive about my father was he didn't have all his beliefs set in stone. He could change his mind, though he rarely did so. One such time concerns an old retired army officer who lived in our village, a Mr. Lloyd, I know not his army rank. He was the man who at the last minute saved all of us from being homeless after our eviction from our Longacre cottage home. He had arranged for us to live for two years at Unstead Park Lodge and he also made a promise to dad and one that he kept. That promise was when they were built, he'd use his influence to ensure we had one of the first completed houses in the Shamley Green housing estate to be known as Hullmead. In the summer of 1948 we all moved in thanks to Mr. Lloyd's help. Dad told Violet that Mr. Lloyd was an exception to his normal rule and he'd gladly doff his cap to someone like him any time. Another man I know my father would have happily doffed his hat to was a Mr. Linfield. He was dad's boss during his time working at Timothy Whites and Taylors, the chemist and hardware shop. He became dads close friend and I'll tell his story another time, for he deserves an article written just about him.
All his life my Dad was a staunch Labour party man and his daily paper was always the Labour supporting, Daily Herald. He was not, however, quite such an ardent supporter as one of our neighbours used to be. I can remember on one occasion when this likeable man sent his son out with instructions to rip down every Conservative, 'Vote Nugent,' poster he saw. My dad instructed me never to join in with such a thing even though he hated the Tories. I also recall, when I was just a child, sitting on my dads shoulders to listen to the words of the Labour candidate for Guildford. He was called Bill Bellerby and it was during the 1955 General election and he was speaking at the bottom end of our village green, near the entrance to our Hullmead estate. Just like my father, I was disappointed when Bellermy lost but, back then, I was yet to discover that a Labour candidate could never win in, the 'true blue,' Conservative, stronghold of Guildford.
Another little gem of information came about because of another of dads newspapers, this one was called, The News of the World. During my childhood I remember there being great excitement in the house when someone pointed out to dad an advert in that paper. It was asking for anyone with the name of Tuffs, to make a claim on the estate of one, Ebenezer Tuffs, who had recently died without a next of kin. We were to learn later that the estate was worth in excess of seventy thousand pounds. Dad duly sent of his details to see if he was in the running and it turned out that he was a relative, but not quite a close enough one. However, it gave my parents a few weeks of excitement and through it we found out something else about our family name. Our name, many generations ago, was Tufts and not Tuffs. It became apparent that at least one of our forbears had been illiterate. This somehow resulted in the slight name change and, as it would be far too complicated to change things to Tufts, it was decided to continue with the proud name of Tuffs. So I had to endure all the teenage jibes of "Think you're tough, Tuffs?" from fools not realising I heard that line a hundred times before!
When Wally junior came to live in Shamley Green, he had dad to himself. As Violet grew, it was just the two of them who would have shared their father's attention. It was not long before dad had Len and Bob to keep happy as well, and once again his relationship with all of his children had to slightly alter. As the years passed there came Dot, Phyl and Gordon for him to contend with and they, and all his other children, would unknowingly compete for his attention. My point is that his relationship with all of them would be forced to change as the years passed. By the time I arrived I had to share him with what at times seemed like the world. But somehow that darling man pulled it off as we all shared his time, and felt his love.
Dad used to have what I thought was a special name for me for he called me 'Putner'. It was years before I knew what it meant but sometimes he'd get his pack of cards out of his private drawer and say, "fancy a game, putner." Of course I would be delighted and we'd both play, Stop the bus, or, Knock out whist. I can also remember feeling terrible on a day I did something wrong, for he'd look at me with a stern face and sad eyes, "You let me down putner" he'd said seriously. At that moment I realised what 'Putner' meant, for it was suddenly obvious and my dad was simply referring to me as his 'partner,' but in his Suffolk accent it came out as putner. He said we. all know that partners should never let each other down and that day I silently vowed to never do so again!
So that's It, some of the stories that help explain the make up of the man I called Dad. You can call me a sentimental fool but when he climbed that ladder again in the March of 1965, I'd like to think that his brother Len was standing at St. Peters side to help welcome him. Of course, if St Peter hadn't turned him away, back in 1943, Phyl and Gordon wouldn't have had a little brother to write this, yet another story, for 'Kens Cosy.'
My last line in this epic tale is sent to the man with the Suffolk accent. Thanks for everything dad.
PS. Since writing this story I have discovered much more about my Dads first marriage to Emma Oakshot Tuffs. They were together for ten years, much longer than I realised. For more details please read ........
Kens Cosy. No. 126. 'A Decisive Mans Decade of Indecision.'
This post was updated on .
This is my favourite tale to date and it tells of my fathers life, of his wartime experiences and of the way they helped mould the man he became. Of all the memories I have recounted since my children encouraged me to write of them, this is the one that affects me most deeply.
|Free forum by Nabble||Edit this page|