THE GRAHAM-OUSBY REMINISCENCES
Here's a large selection of random thoughts about the beach from Peter and Susan Graham [see here and here], and their neighbour Jimmy Ousby (who likes Penguin biscuits- he's been getting through half-a-dozen every day for a good 30 years), recorded in Autumn 2006. I've arranged most of the information in a rough north-to-south order, but with frequent digressions.
Susan remembered that her uncle Bob had a tent near the ramp at Nethertown one summer in the early 1970s, shortly before the family sold their bungalow to Jimmy. She went to the Tow Bar Inn, with a friend, to meet Peter, leaving her day shoes in the tent, but it was such a lovely night that he decided to walk her back to the beach, which gave her the choice of wearing dancing shoes or wellingtons. The catch for Peter was that there was no way Susan's mum would allow him to spend the night in the bungalow, so he huddled up under a sheet of tarpaulin, and started walking, with his friend Ian, back up to Nethertown at dawn. There they encountered George Crossley (later well known for his garden centre at Mirehouse) who had a motorbike with a special sidecar that he filled with coal collected along the shore. Still wearing their suits, they accepted a lift- Peter was lucky enough to get the pillion, while Ian "hung on for dear life" on the seatless, coal-black sidecar.|
Peter remembers other youthful trips to the Tow Bar Inn- taxi for those who wanted to impress, bus for those who didn't mind slumming it. he remembers a neat trick whereby one person would pay to get in, then open a window in the restaurant to let in his friends. As luck would have it, Peter and Susan acquired the famous windows when the Tow Bar was demolished, and had them renovated for installation in the bungalow.
Just on the right of the road from Nethertown to Braystones is a field under which are buried the materials from some of the old Nethertown Camp buildings, including the NAAFI, demolished in 1948.
In the 1970s, a big barge came aground on this bit of beach. Mr Price hoped to claim salvage rights, but quite quickly a Scotsman with a large crane came trundling over the beach, and told him in graphic terms what he thought of that idea. The barge was eventually refloated and reunited with its tug. A fair number of fishing boats have also run aground on this stretch of coast, usually because most of the crew were drunk. One got stuck on the rocks about 2004, and the lifeboat had to be called out.
Memories of shipwrecks- the grounding of a small trawler, mentioned elsewhere on this site, and also of a cabin cruiser, not far north of 'Waverley', which seems to have been deliberate, with a view to collecting on the insurance. Susan recalled a bell in the old family bungalow that her mum used to call everybody in for lunch, which she thought had come from a grounded ship, but Jimmy, who still has it, says it was for air-raid warnings. Jimmy also bought Susan's grandad's boat, and was given personal advice on the best places and times to fish, on condition that he didn't pass the information on to "that guy up there" (Jack Henson). The best day for fishing, apparently was Sunday: "What you do, son, is you get up, you get in your car, you go to Egremont, you get all the Sunday papers, then you come back down, and you see all them ships..." (there were probably over 30 commercial fishing vessels working the Solway Firth back in the 1970s) "...you go out and you give them all Sunday papers- and when you come back in, you'll be chock-a with fish."
In 2005, the Coastguard were alerted following the observation of red flares out at sea. The lifeboat was called out, but the watchers on the shore, communicating by phone with the Coastguard office in Liverpool, saw its lights go right past the flare site without stopping. Only after various frustrated enquiries was it established that the flares were the product of an unusual variety of tracer ammunition being fired from the gunnery range at Eskmeals!
The last big storm doing very serious damage to the bungalows was back in 2002- wind and high tide combined to devastating effect (Jimmy reckons that in any storm it's the last 5-10 minutes that do the real damage). Some people think that they'll be safe unless there's an 8.5 metre tide combined with a force 10 wind, or that the danger will pass once the tide turns- but if the wind's a westerly, it doesn't have to be that powerful to cause problems, and there's quite a long period after high tide when the water is not retreating to any significant extent. Oddly enough, the old 1920s bungalows seemed to survive the storms better than the more recent ones- possibly because the timber then was properly aged and dried before being used. Peter remembers when he was demolishing the old Waverley that the timber he was pulling down (pitch pine etc.) was of better quality than what was going into the replacement. He used some of it to make furniture.
There haven't been any really severe storms over the past 3-4 years, but on some previous occasions, it would take two or three weeks just to get all the pebbles off the grass in the bungalow garden- following which the process would be repeated next door at Mrs Battrick's, and so on. Jimmy says they used to reckon on a bad storm every ten years or so; he also remembers that back in the late 1950s or early 1960s there was a grass bank in front of 'Lobster Pot' (which Susan also remembers), and another in front of 'Isle View'.
There used to be caravans in one of the fields north of the Station (first on the left) in addition to the site which survives today. Site owner Mr Lockhart had contacts at Egremont Police Station, who would tip him off whenever the police got too interested in the goings-on at his social club. The club was "bouncing" in its heyday. It used to attract big names like Frank Carson, and the acts due to perform at the weekends (Friday & Saturday nights) would do a warm-up gig on Friday afternoons, so many Sellafield workers would leave work early to come and see them and the place was often "chock-a-block" on those afternoons.
A childhood memory from the 1950s: an old man called Dan (who never smiled) [apparently, this was actually a man named John Tyson], who used to drive Pallings' tractor across the fields bringing coal and other commodities for sale to the bungalow dwellers. However, he can't have been very old in reality, for he was not much over 80 when he died, decades later. This also prompted memories of Palling's ingenious packing practices for the coal and other bagged items such as tomatoes, and of the fierce rivalry between the Pallings and other local farmers, the Lockharts and the Sharpes. One of Lockhart's niftier ideas, according to Peter, was to use many tons of shingle from the beach to help provide a firm base for his caravan site.
On the subject of coal- Peter and Jimmy both agree that it's best to get a good stock of coal for heating in October, in case the autumn storms wreck the beach track.