This is the authentic story of my life as I can remember, or I have been told by other people, or by my parents. The details are as positive as I can truly give them.
I was born, or, so I have been told, along with my twin brother Albert on the 10th day of June, in the year of our Lord 1909, at the house of my grandparents on my mother’s side, at number 197, Belmont Street, New Bridge road, Holderness Road, in the city of Kingston-Upon-Hull, in the county of Yorkshire.
My brother was born some 30 minutes before me, making him the elder, something he often reminded me of in later life.
The house where I was born, was one of a row of six terraced houses with bay windows at the front, and a large back garden. The houses on either side of us were occupied by prison warders from the neighbouring jail. Looking out from the front bedroom window, from the room where I was born, one looked onto a large field, and beyond the field,was a large dark, forbidding building Hull Hedon Road jail.At that time it housed prisoners serving up to two year sentences. On each side of the jail in the distance could be seen the masts and funnels of the ships in the Hull Alexander Dock, and to the left of the Alexander Dock, could be seen the ships in the King George Dock. At that time Hull had 11 docks with a total dock space of 232 acres.
Alongside the jail was another field with rugby football post erected where my father played as a boy, and later, as a young man he played for Newtown Wanderers. (Middle row, 2nd left)
Near to the rugby field was Lee-Smith St, where my father was born. I do not remember my fathers' parents as they both died fairly young in life. My father told me that my Grandfather was a very big, powerful man who always wore a beard.
Returning to the house where I was born, they had 3 bedrooms, a front room, a living room and a small scullery; a little backyard , and a long back garden.
My maternal Grandfather worked on the Alexander dock as a fitter. He was a tall, erect military type man, very smart, with his hair well groomed, and he wore a waxed moustache of which he was very proud. He had served in the Boer war as a soldier.
His name was James Ruffles. My grandmothers name was Annie, and her maiden name was Annie Rayward. The Raywards were seafaring people, and one of them was a ship's captain taking the Abbey boats from Hull river-side quay to Rotterdam carrying passengers and freight to the continent. I well remember the Whitby Abbey and the Jervaux Abbey.
My Grandmother was a very small person, but very wiry and energetic. The Ruffles had 6 children, 3 boys and 3 girls. My mother was the eldest , and was named after her mother. The other children were Alice, Edith, James (Jim), Harry, and William.
James and Annie Ruffles
Alice was a rather homely and very nice person but rather on the plain side; Edie was a very nice looking person but inclined to be stand-offish; James was a really smart chap; Harry was a big powerful man about 6 feet tall and about 17 stone but a very moody type of person. He always kept himself very fit with dumbbells and he had a punch-ball and a set of boxing gloves. He was later a boxing instructor in the army. Billy was of average build and had rather a large nose, but was always the same. Although he got very drunk often, he was jolly with it. He often gave me pennies to spend. I think that I liked Billy the best of my uncles and aunties.
Jim, as a boy, went to the Hull trinity House School to train as a naval officer. He was a brilliant scholar and passed his exams with ease. He later became a ship's captain in the merchant navy at the age of 21, and later a Lieutenant-Commander in the Royal Navy. He married a farm girl from a country place called Weighton, a few miles outside Hull. Her name was Hannah Waddingham, they had 3 children, Herbert, Elsie and Annie.
Alice married a railwayman named Fred Mather, who later became an engine driver. they had 3 children, Alice, the eldest, Jean, and Leonard who died of consumption at an early age. Edith married a sailor names Guy Boothby. They had a daughter called Marie Theresa.
Harry and Billy never married.
My mother had married at the age of 19 to Arthur William Barnes. My twin brother was christened Albert, and I was named Bernard McGlynn. The McGlynn's came over from Ireland in the potato famine of 1841, and they married into the Barnes family of Oldham in Lancashire. My Dad told me that his Uncle Ben Barnes was a cotton mill owner in Oldham. I was named after a relative of my fathers called Bernard McGlynn, who was a Beefeater in the Tower of London. so, I am obviously of Irish descent. My father often said that before he died he would like to visit Ireland, but he never fulfilled that wish.
A few weeks after we were born, we moved into a small house in the next street, to number 10 Estcourt Street. I must try to describe the house as I remember it some years later, as I was to spend my early childhood there.
The house had 2 rooms downstairs and 2 upstairs. The front door opened out onto the street, and at the back of the house was a small backyard that looked out to other backyards. The kitchen or living room was small, it had a square whitewood table that my mother scrubbed frequently, in the middle of the room. There was a couch on one side near the wall. there were 3 ordinary chairs, several large photographs on the wall and the fireplace had a small oven at one side of it. it was the open type of fireplace. in one corner of the room was a brick built in copper, with a tiny fireplace underneath. The front room was something special, as we only used it on a Sunday, or if company came. There was a round mahogany table in the centre of the room, covered with a large red tablecloth that reached down to the floor. Albert and I used to hide under the table when anyone special came. We often had visits of the Roman Catholic priest, Father Murphy. I am sure that my first recollections of the room were when Albert and I had the measles, and we were placed in a cot that had been brought from upstairs whilst we were ill. There were 2 easy chairs and 3 best chairs and alongside the wall near to the front door was a sideboard on which stood a large glass case that contained a large stuffed dog. The dog's name was Twig, and when it died, my father, who thought a lot about the dog, had him stuffed. My father was always saying what a wonderful dog it had been. also on the sideboard was a large marble clock and a pair of black iron horses, all of which had been presented to my father for his services as a solo singer in the St. Mary's Catholic Choir. in the fireplace was a large pair of bellows for coaxing up the fire. The bellows were very fashionable in those days . On the walls were several biggish photographs, and I well remember a rather nice photograph of my dad and mother when they were married. There was also a photograph of the Newtown Wanderers Rugby Team.
As a child, I was thin and puny, whereas my twin brother Albert was fat and chubby. Before I started school, I was very ill with a growth on my head, and I spent 13 months in the Hull Royal Infirmary, and after that my mother took me for 11 months as an outpatient. So, I was ill for about 2 years. I was eventually cured with radium, and as radium was at the experimental stage at that time, I was told that I was the first child in Hull to be treated and also cured with radium.
When Albert and I were 2 years 11 months old, an addition came to our family. My younger brother Arthur was born, and, as a result my brother Albert was taken to 197 Belmont Street to live with his grandmother and he remained there until he married.
Coming back to number 10 Estcourt street. I well remember that the house had no electricity, only gas. In the bedrooms were gas jets, and, of course downstairs had gas mantles. I used to play with the gas jets when we went to bed ,and turn them to a great height. Something that would be considered a dangerous hazard today.
Opposite number 10 was a large Church of England school. and on reaching the age of 5 my mother took me there to start my scholastic career. But, being something of a wayward child, on the first day I ran home at playtime. This happened several times during the next few weeks, so my parents decided to send me to a school about a mile away to try and stop my antics. It was a catholic School, St.Mary's in Wilton street, off holders Rd. My brother Albert was already a scholar there. I must now mention that Albert and I had been baptized at St. Mary's Catholic Church as catholics. The school was run entirely by nuns, Sisters of Mercy who lived at the neighbouring Convent.
The headmistress was called Sister Mary Anthony. She was a tall gaunt woman, and she said to my mother that she would keep me under control. She had a large belt around her waist and she wasn't afraid to use it on disobedient children. Also in her study she kept a long stout cane that she could yield with some force. The cane was used on the older boys and I often saw lads with tears in their eyes and their hands tucked under their armpits to ease the pain, coming out of her study. The assistant headmistress was Sister Mary veronica. She was an austere type of person , who wore spectacles and she was always watching pupils as she sat at her desk. She could also lay on the cane. Other nuns were Sister Mary Saviour, Sister Mary Agnew, Sister Mary Luke, Sister Mary Benedict and Sister Mary Regis. Sister Mary Saviour was a very kindly person, and she took me in the convent sometimes and gave me a cup of cocoa. It was weak with a very little sugar, but so hot it was very acceptable in the wintertime. I remember a little of the convent as it had lots os states of the Virgin Mary and Christ. There were 2 chapels where the nuns spent a lot of time praying. One thing I shall never forget was when I misbehaved, Sister Mary Anthony made me lay on a desk on my tummy, and I received several hits from her belt on my backside.
I well remember my playmates from Estcourt Street.Walter Nix, Johnny Turner, Willie Whittle, Jimmy Redhead, George Jackets, Frank Robinson and Leslie Fowler.
My father made me a bat from a piece of wood, and we played cricket in the street. We also made holes in the road and played marbles. There were no motor cars in those days. The local Doctor sometimes came along in his hansom cab, with the driver perched high at the back with long reins to steer the horse along. An Italian came along with his barrel organ, with a monkey sitting on top of the organ. The muffin man came along about once a week, and my mother bought muffins and toasted them. Sometimes a man came with his hot-chestnut cart or barrow, and we crowded round his barrow in the winter time to get a warm from his fire. Ice-cream carts came in the summertime. At home we were well fed with plenty of broths with split peas floating in the broth. We had suet puddings and sago puddings, and particularly plenty of bread puddings. My mother bought what we called penny Ducks, and as my father was very fond of tripe, we had tripe and onions every week. I well remember bananas were 20 for a shilling.
Friday night was our bath night, and the old zinc bath came in from the backyard. Saturday was something special, as we all got dressed up (I had a sailor suit with a large collar and a pair of black button boots) and we all went up to the town. The shops were open until 11 o' clock. We had fish and chips and peas, and a bottle of pop, and my dad always bought a large bag of goodie fishes, which we brought home and they had to last all the following week. Before going to bed on a Saturday night we had to have a large spoonful of Liquorice powder in a glass of water. That was our physic for the week. . My dad always believed in keeping our bowels open.