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Colin Norman

Colin Norman's memories from Some Shelford Lives.

Colin was born in Little Shelford, but came to live in Great Shelford and attended the school there. Many of the moves were caused by his grandfather losing his agricultural labouring job and having to move out of tied cottages. In retirement Colin worked for an OU degree, and later a higher degree at Anglia Ruskin University……in family history! 

I was born in Little Shelford in a cottage next to the village hall. It was two cottages then. Two tiny rooms up and a tiny room and a kitchen-come-staircase downstairs

My grandparents lived there. Grandad Alf was a farm labourer at Manor Farm, Little Shelford. I think at the time they had at home five of their eight children - four or five certainly.

Grandfather lost his job as a cowman at the Rectory Farm, and with it of course the tied cottage he lived in, because the farmer wanted the job and the cottage for another man, who just happened to be George Easy, who was about to marry my Aunt Tilly. Her brother Luke had emigrated to Australia. When I asked Why did Luke go to Australia? she said ‘Why, boy, for betterment. George and Tilly moved into the cottage that we were kicked out of

Alf and Flo with their two remaining unmarried children, George and Rowie, my mother and I, all came to live in Great Shelford along the High Street -number sixty High Street it's called now. I can remember sitting on the doorstep with grandad Alf and he put his head in his hands and he was crying. ‘I don't know what I'm going to do. I don't know what I'm going to do.’ I had the pleasure of sitting on that doorstep again ten years ago and wandering around in the cottage and photographing the interior.

In 1935 Grandad got a job as a cowman with Farmer Howard at Hauxton Mill. We lived in a bungalow where we had electricity installed. I can remember that being installed, the shiny varnished switches. And floods down there that came right up the road, but not into our bungalow because that was set about two feet above the road. Alf lost the job there too because the farmer told him ‘I want a younger cowman, Alf’.

We moved then in 1936 to an old detached house in Hauxton, still standing, now renovated. There was no lighting, but we had the oil lamp, which I've still got. I remember grandfather, who used to sit and read the family bible on a Sunday evening: He'd read a chapter and then he'd sit down with me and we'd play draughts and snap.

In January 1940 we moved to a cottage in High Street, Little Shelford, called Botwell's Row, still standing. Two up, two down. I remember we had twin evacuees billeted with us, Jimmy and Johnny. They were younger than me. I went to Great Shelford school which was of course a bit daunting after Hauxton, which had just 15 pupils, aged 5 - 14. The headmistress who came in the early'40s was a Miss C.A. Hayes. She was a bit of a dragon. I can remember in one lesson we were given three words and we had to put them together in one sentence. I was eight years old. "Where, there and were. the sentence I wrote, I clearly recall it, was " We went for a walk on Sunday afternoon and came to a place where there was a puyb." Miss Hayes was outraged that anyone could come from a  home that would encourage him to write in that way. I don't know what I thought at the time: A bit disappointed? I kept it to myself.

January 1943, i think it was, I sat the scholarship to get to the County High, now Hills Road Sixth Form College. the results came out and were announced in the school hall by Miss Hayes and I remember there was a great deal of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth because only girl and five boys passed. So that caused a bit of controversy. I've still got the forms Mum had to sin and were countersigned by Miss Hayes.

Of course they were all fee paying places in '43 but my mother was able to afford the four pounds a term fee for the first year because she was in her war work. It was well paid relative to what she had been accustomed to at Chivers' factory in Histon. We had to attend for an interview, conducted by C. Kingsley Dove, the deputy headmaster of the time, who lived in Stapleford.

I didn't really know what I was doing at the County High.Perhaps I shouldn't  have gone? I wasn't bright enough? All my mates had gonbe to Sawston Village College and they seemed to treat me as posh. I don't see why they should. I'd been taunted long enough for my background: Bastard, to put it mildly,and that they threw at me when they felt like it.

In 1974 Sawston Village College became  comprehensive for all abilities. My three sons went to Sawston and then two to Hills Road and one to the Tech and then all on to Higher education at University for degrees, and that is the opportunity which we'd given them, without the hurdle of discrimination and the selection of the eleven plus.

I think things generally, socially and economically, are so much better now than they were, despite all this crap from people who say "Oh well, life's not what it used to be." I'm glad its not. I never dreamt of living in a house like this. I haven't had to fetch the water for a long time.

That's the bottom line in life for me - if you can maintain a  positive progressive attitude for betterment, you find it - it  is not just a dream.

Excerpt from Some Shelford Lives courtesy of the Great Shelford Oral History Group.