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"Grandma Noddy"
Times Square - Broadway
Tracy Francine
At her Villa in Spain
Below are some of the stories Tracy wrote over ten years ago and I thought they may be of interest, as they are about family.  She is still writing but now she writes and sells her stories to magazines whilst at the same time working on her book that she will complete one of these days.
Worse Things Happen At Sea  - Fishermen's Memorial - A Pub Holiday 

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Worse Things Happen At Sea

Francine Lee

As a child growing up in Grimsby and its environs, and having strong links with the fishing industry, I was always very aware of the sea and life upon it.  If tears were caused by a tumble or a broken toy, I was never told the proverb ' no use crying over spilt milk' but 'never mind, worse things happen at sea'.  This phrase was often uttered by my grandmother, among others, and always aroused my curiosity - what worse things?   Well grandma should know.

She was the eldest girl from a family of eight, four boys, four girls.  Her father and uncles were skippers on trawlers, as was their father and his father also.  Her four brothers and her only son, all became skippers, the latter breaking many landing records in the 70's before the demise of the industry.  Grandma, or Nanny Lettie as we called her, was the second eldest in the family, her brother Alf being her senior by two years.

Skipper by the age of twenty, his first trip in the command of the S.S. Leicestershire at the age of twenty-five was to be his last.  He and his crew were lost when the ship went down off the Isle of Hoy in the Orkneys.  Fifteen men died, twelve of them married, leaving behind twenty-three fatherless children.  The ship was bound for home when it was caught in fierce gales and sank.

Out at sea, crews kept in touch via radio.  Alf's father, also called Alf, spoke to his son before they turned for home.  Great Granddad anticipated his son landing back in Grimsby a day or so before him and sent Alf with message for the family of when to expect him in.  When Great Grandfather returned to dock he shouted to men ashore to ask if Alf had made a good trip.  He was told the Leicestershire had not returned.

The first news to reach Grimsby was that wreckage had been found off the Isle of Hoy bearing part of the word Grimsby and a wireless set marked No. 1125.  By process of elimination the wreckage was identified as that of the Leicestershire.

Angered by the lack of concern of the trawler's owners Alf's father paid for my Grandfather Jim (Nanny Lettie's husband) to fly to the Orkneys.  Jim would be able to find out what had happened and he would also be on hand to identify the bodies.  The Islanders, had with great heroism and courage, retrieved the bodies, though not all were recovered.

On the 6th February 1938, the trawler 'Hampshire' sailed into Grimsby docks with its cargo of six black coffins bearing the bodies of those found.  It was Sunday night.  All the other ships in the estuary held back so that the 'Hampshire' would be first through the lock gates.  Crowds of friends and relatives stood on the quayside awaiting its arrival.  It must have been an incredibly tragic sight.

My great grandfather, his remaining three sons and two other male relatives went on board to unload the coffins.  They were placed in the hearses to be taken to the Bethel Missions, the Fishermen's Chapel, in Tiverton Street.

Alfred Evans was from one of the best known and widely respected fishing families in the town.  On a cold winters evening the streets were lined with hundreds of people, from the Dock Roads to The Mission, as the cortege made its way in silence.

People paid their last respects at the mission during the next two days.  On the day of the funeral the streets were lined six deep with mourners.

The bodies were interred at Scartho Road Cemetery.  Although other bodies were recovered they were too disfigured to be identified and are buried on The Orkneys.


Photo 1 - Ernie Rogers [I believe], ?, and my grandfather Jim Meadows, Great-Granddad Alf stood  to the right

Photo 2 - ?, Bill Hughes [I believe], Jim Evans and Great-Granddad Alfred Evans

Nanny Lettie always said that that first loss hit her so hard that the following losses never seemed to hurt so much.  Three years later in April 1941 her husband was killed in the war, returning to his ship, a minesweeper.  Another brother died whilst fishing, one at home and one is still alive, Uncle Jim.  He is a great source of stories of life at sea, of the hardship, of loss of life and limb.  At the age of 75 he still works down the docks, as a ship's husband, standing watch when the ship is in dock and overseeing repairs and the restocking or stores.  Nanny Lettie's son John is still at sea, but no longer fishing.  Once the top skipper in the country he took to sailing from Spain and is now on the 'Stand-by' boats off the oil rigs, all his skills laid waste.

Men that have gone to sea since boyhood know of, nor want any other life.  Away for three weeks at a time and ashore for two or three days, they barely got to know their families, nor their families them.  At sea they live in cramped conditions and work, when the fish is on, day and night.  When in Arctic waters ice has to be chipped from the ship with an axe so that it doesn't become top heavy and keel over.  They are at work in rough, cold, unforgiving seas.  Lives and limbs lost part of everyday existence.  Now I know why 'worse things happen at sea'.

'Fishermen's Memorial'
(photo by Gary Evans)
This was written over 10 years ago and since then Jim has died and the last of the 8 children Jean Eva also died last year 2004.

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A Pub Holiday
Francine Lee
When I was about eight years old life, although rather stressful for my parents, began to get rather exciting for me.  Dogged by financial worries Dad decided to give up his plumbing business and trained to be a Publican.  Before he and Mum could have a pub of their own they had to do relief work, which meant covering at pubs when the present landlords were on holiday.  it must have been horrendous for my mother having to move from place to place remembering school uniforms and baby equipment, but to us children it was the start of a great adventure.  We lived in Waltham, which at that time was a slowly expanding village and all the pubs we were to stay in were in Grimsby Town.

Our first temporary "home" was the 'Duke of Wellington' on Pasture Street.  To the left of it was the local Brewery and to the right, a few yards up was the main railway crossing, complete with signal box and long white gates.  I would spend hours gazing from the windows, watching the lights flash and the barriers glide across to form the large red warning circle on the front.  As Pasture Street was the main thoroughfare between Freeman Street and Top Town there was always a constant parade of vehicles and pedestrians making their way from one to the other.  The lights flashed, the gates came across and it seemed as if life was suspended, waiting for the train.  It would come rattling by, the gates would move gracefully back and cars and people would jerk back into motion.

We had to keep out of sight during pub hours but the remainder of the time were able to prowl around and explore.  I felt very privileged - I was in a building were only grown-ups were allowed.  The rooms were huge and the bars were a blend of glass, mirrors and bottles, so many different shapes, so many labels.

I quickly made the acquaintance of Bill the bottle man.  He would arrive early morning and his job was to crate up the empties and restock the shelves.  I soon became his assistant.  A crate upended and used as a seat, a damp cloth to wipe the bottles and I was ready for work.  Every label had to face the front, rows perfectly straight.  Once the task was completed my reward would be a game of dominoes, always hiding the double blank in the belief that the fewer spots I had left in my hand, the more chance I had of winning.

The following two pubs were situated by the Bull Ring - 'The Tivoli Tavern' and 'The White Hart'.  The Tivoli was a lovely little pub, warm and friendly, and part of the main terrace facing the Market Square.  Albert Gait, booksellers, was next door, Chambers next to that and toward the end of the street Noble's sweet shop.  The other buildings are lost from memory being of no childish value.  It was the Easter Holidays during our stay there and we were inundated with sweets and eggs from generous customers.  Living in a pub appeared to have many advantages.

During the day I would wander around the square.  Albert Gait's would be the first port of call admiring books and art materials that never lost their appeal, then on to Chambers.  Chambers was not a shop it was an experience.  You only had to open the door and the wonderful essence of coffee beans would swim up your nose.  I would stroll around the dark interior peering at the produce in it's great counters, teas, coffees, in huge glass fronted compartments, biscuits to be bought by the pound, nothing pre-packed.  Money and receipts whizzed overhead in little gold capsules to the cashiers.  You could certainly have a good day out at Chambers.

On a Market Day morning we would look out onto a different landscape.  A sea of green canvas, dipping and rising in waves would cover the square.  Brightly coloured flowers in buckets, pyramids of fruit and vegetables, clothes dancing on their hangers in the early morning breeze.  Traders shouting their wares, buses spewing shoppers on to the streets.  All day long people would stream back and forth until around four o'clock when business would start to taper off.  Stalls would be gradually folded down, traders drove away, cleaners remained to clear away the debris.

The White Hart was the other side of the Bull Ring on the corner of Wellowgate and facing St. James' Church.  Each morning we would wake to it's bells ringing reveille ready for school.  Even though only a minutes walk from The Tivoli from here there was a totally new perspective on the square, the Church being dominant to the scene.  At the back of the White Hart was a large courtyard where the draymen delivered the beer and across from the arched entrance was the off-licence - handy for sweets.

I don't recall much of the pub itself only that it was there that I first saw a Dimple Whisky bottle and rescued one to save sixpences in.

We only accompanied our parents to three pubs but it was during that time I became aware that life existed beyond our countryside haven.  After a year my Mum and Dad became managers of their own pub 'The Pier Hotel' in Cleethorpes, situated opposite the Pier itself and stretching out to either side beaches and the sea and more adventures to come.

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Nanny Lettie
Francine Lee

I felt it quite warming that sounds, smells and even taste, can evoke such vivid memories of times past, and at the most unexpected moments.

A quick sortie around Sainsbury's the other day and the purchase of that long forgotten delicacy - potted meat - brought back such wonderful thoughts of childhood, and of one person in particular - Nanny Lettie.

Although my purchase came in an antiseptic looking white plastic tub - stating the required nutritional information - I was transported back to my Grandmother's local corner store where potted meat was scooped from a large white pot, slapped onto squares of greaseproof paper, and wrapped like 'six-pennorth of chips.'

It was such a treat to go to her house for the week-end, just Nanny and I, no siblings to vie for her attention, and I could look forward to being spoiled and cosseted.

With Nanny Lettie unable to drive (she later bought a car and whizzed about) we would catch the single-decker bus that would take us to Queen Mary Avenue.  Once on board she would strike up conversations with other passengers and soon the whole bus would be alive with the gossip and debate of the day.

She lived in Cleethorpes and, although this bordered on the town of Grimsby a large and prosperous fishing port, the many small shops and businesses that were dotted around the area, gave it the characteristics of a small village.  We could hardly walk a few yards before we saw Mr. or Mrs. So and So, who would nod in recognition or stop to pass the time of day.  A five minutes walk would often take an hour or more, depending on who she met.

As we strolled down the roads and avenues to Dugard Road she would point out where some relative or other lived, or had lived once upon a time.  As a small child I was under the impression that Cleethorpes consisted mainly of relatives on my Mother's side.

We would call at the Butchers, Bakers, Post Office and shopkeepers, knowing her by name, would chat easily to her whilst preparing her order.  How many children of today miss, with the loss of the small shops, some only having the knowledge of the local supermarket on a Saturday afternoon.









We all travelled to Spain on the 30th May 2004 (16 of us in total) - Neil, Tracy, Nick & Neile' - Nick, Dianne, Luanne, Roxanne & Olivia - Andrew, Taryn, Talia & Tom Jnr. - Tom & Joan & Alfreda. We were there for two weeks and we had a fantastic time relaxing, swimming, gardening (Neil had got some exotic plants and they needed planting pretty quickly - 300  altogether), Alfreda began planting whilst we went into Marbella, she didn't want to come and when we got back she had done quite a bit of the planting but ended up with a very red back, she didn't realise how hot the sun was.  We spent quite a lot of time during the next few days planting and digging with help from Andy and Nick and Neil digging out the heavy rocks so we could get on with the planting.  Taryn and Di took the younger girls, Luanne, Roxanne and Neile' into Marbella one night as a treat and the young ones were teetering on their new high heels and had very sore feet when they got home.  Taryn wore very high heels all the time we were there, she's an expert.  Tommy did the cooking for us all when we weren't eating out, he's quite a treasure. I don't know where we dug him up.

It was great to see Nick after his six months in Austria snowboarding etc. and studying at the University of Life.

Alfreda was doing facials whilst we were there and that included the men.  They were all very impressed at how lovely their skin felt afterwards!!



1st photo - girls before they headed for Marbella  2nd Tom in the kitchen with Luanne  3rd Andrew Alfreda and Joan gardening 4th Tracy Olivia Di Tom Jnr Luanne Tom Snr Neil on the patio  5th Nick (not very often we get a photo of Nick) Taryn in foreground


1st photo In the Kitchen  2nd Sat around table on patio 3rd photo relaxing in the lounge  4th Alfreda doing a facial  5th Tom Olivia and Nick at the bar


During the Bank Holiday week of May 2003 We all went to "Sunny Spain" to visit Neil and Tracy in the south of Spain to enjoy their hospitality.  We (Andrew, Taryn, Talia, Thomas, Tom, Joan and Alfreda) arrived early on Sunday morning 25th May 2003 and in  residence when we arrived  was Neil, Tracy and Neile`.

We had the most wonderful time and the weather for the whole 7 days was fantastic and we spent our time beside the super swimming pool and explored the acres of land surrounding the Villa.


Neil has made some terrific alterations to the Villa during the time he has owned it and keeping the style of it very Spanish.  The Villa is up in the mountains and very private.  We had some fun in the early days driving up the very steep road to the Villa thankfully for me and the rest of the crowd I didn't do any driving.

We all got a tan and Tommy Jnr. spent most of the time running around the pool with not a stitch on enjoying the freedom.

We visited and ate out in the local town on Tapaz and other Spanish delicacies and learnt some of the language whilst we were there and intend to learn more.  The Villa is situated not far from Marbella and we visited a couple of times and also went further along the coast to Puerto Buenos (not sure of the spelling) which is where all the very large yachts and cruisers berth and it is quite a sight.


Tom Snr. cooked breakfast every morning for all of us and some of the evening meals, when we weren't eating out.  He's becoming quite a treasure, worth his weight in gold!!!!!

The only thing that wasn't quite right was because Dianne, Nick, Lu, Roxy and Olivia were missing.  Someday soon we'll all be able to be together on a holiday and that would be just wonderful.

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First of all there was a grand family gathering for Joan's 65th birthday on the 15th July.  Family travelled from far and wide to celebrate this occasion.

The day started with an early morning trip to Yorkshire (Kirk Ella) for Joan, Tracy, Dianne and Taryn to get their hair done at the "Hairdresser of the Year" Mark Hill's Salon, and we were all pampered and cared for by none other than Mark Hill himself.  (All thanks to Taryn).  Olivia       (2 months old) came along for the experience and was as good as gold.



Then the ladies lunched at Cafe' Valerie (Cleethorpes Seafront) and waddled around the corner to Taryn's house.

Following this a barbeque was held at Andrew and Taryn's home and  all family and friends gathered in our favourite place 'The Potting Shed'. 


 Oldies had nibbles and dribbles and sang old songs until the cold set into their bones and they were taken home and the youngsters took over the Potting Shed.  A good time was had by all.  Dad (Tom) even managed to stay right until the end showing a stoicism not seen since he won his British Empire Medal in 1960.  There is no limit to this man's courage and endurance.

The following day the family met for a birthday lunch at The Briggate Lodge near Scunthorpe.  After a plentiful and beautiful meal we relaxed in the lounge, chatted and relaxed to  music played by the pianist in the restaurant.  All the children were really well behaved except Neil who kept playing the piano in the restaurant.

Nick took a week off work and travelled up via City Link truck.  He finished his shift at 8.30 pm one Friday and had a ride in the truck to the HUB at Birmingham then, after helping load and unload got on another truck to Sunny Scunny when Grandpa picked him up in the early hours.  He had a great week up there in Cleethorpes sleeping at various houses and eating Chez Nick (those famous fajitas are worth travelling for).

After all this excitement, out of the blue the call was out to go the Center Parcs for a week.  Everyone was up for that apart from Nick B and Lu who were at work, Neil who was in Spain and Tracy who was left holding the fort.  Grandma and Grandpa drove down  to collect Neile` and took Roxy with them for a long awaited visit to visit Neilé's home.  We tried to pack in as much as possible - a trip to the pub and the trampolines, a Chinese takeaway; a shopping spree,  ski bobbing at the Ski Centre (where Roxy looked like she was overheating); and a session on the waterslides at Splashdown followed by a MacDonalds.

Then the troop took a long drive back home to Cleethorpes, Grandma and Grandpa having to listen to pop music all the way home and Roxy and Neile` suffering to Radio 2 for the last part of the journey.

Then they all went off to Center Parcs (Noddy, Baldy, Taryn, Andy, Di, Nick, Roxy, Neile`, Talia, Tommy and Olivia) everyone made the most of the wonderful facilities.  The log cabins were spacious and comfortable Roxy and Neile` went canoeing, windsurfing, roller skating etc.  Andy, Nick, Roxy and Neile` had bikes for the week (Andy having a trailer on his for Talia).  We all swam every single day in the wonderful pool/s.  There were numerous wonderful eating places and Talia celebrated her 5th birthday there on the 31st July at Huckleberry's restaurant and had a special cake and a magician came and entertained us at the table.  Nick also made his Chicken fajitas (maybe we can persuade him to tell us his secret recipe for a further issue).

Neile` was brought back by Grandma and Grandpa and Neil took everyone out to a pub five minutes down the road - which by Dad's reckoning was 15 minutes drive - but at least the beer was good (well for southern beer anyway!)