Friday, 12 June 2015

What Happened when the Second Barnsley Pals Slept in a Church Schoolroom in 1915

I seem to come back from Barnsley Archives every week with the inspiration for a new story.  This week it was a bit of a side step from my usual War Memorials but still concerned with First World War Soldiers.

In Jon Cooksey's book, Barnsley Pals, he comments that by Easter of 1915 the second Battalion of volunteers raised by the town were outgrowing their accommodation in the Public Hall in Barnsley. 
"Fortunately for the members of the Raising Committee, tearing their hair out wondering where to house a further 100 volunteers plus a reserve Company numbering some 250, the Trustees of the Regent Street Congregational Church came forward with the generous offer of its schoolroom for use by one of the Companies." (Cooksey, J. (1996) Barnsley Pals, Barnsley, Pen & Sword, p.72)
Yesterday in the Archives I was thrilled to find documentary evidence of this event while searching through the Regent Street Congregational Church documents filed as item A/163/2/N in the catalogue.  This is four boxes of items, from marriage registers and annual accounts to Sunday School programmes and minute books.
Letter dated 22 March 1915 (with thanks to Barnsley Archives)
Telling the above story there is firstly a letter from W P Donald, Barnsley's Town Clerk dated 22nd March 1915 to Mr Thomas Ledgar Esq. of Wellfield Road, Senior Trustee of the Regent Street Congregational Church.  (That mark on the bottom right appears to be a spillage of red ink and covers the next few paragraphs of the letter.)  Headed 'Second Barnsley Battalion' the letter begins,
 "The Committee charged with the raising and equipment of the above Battalion have instructed me to approach you, as Senior Trustee, with reference to the Battalion being allowed to use the Regent Street Congregational Church Schoolroom for the accommodation of the men.
At the present time, the Public Hall and Arcade Hall are overcrowded, and the men who have joined have not the requisite accommodation necessary to insure their health being preserved."
This sounds more as if the Town Clerk is putting forward the idea to the church than the church offering, however I suppose it could just be putting in writing something that had already been informally discussed.

Later in the letter Mr Donald assures the Trustees of the 'absolute urgency' of the situation and explains that an allowance of 1d to 3d per man per night 'with a depreciation allowance in certain cases' would be paid to them by the War Office.
Letter dated 13 May 1915 (with thanks to Barnsley Archives)

The Trustees obviously accepted the arrangements and the next letter in the file is dated 13th May 1915 and is from Lieutenant Colonel Raley, commanding officer of the 14th York and Lancaster Regiment and well known Barnsley solicitor.  He is writing to thank the Trustees for their 'great kindness in letting us the rooms' and offers to make arrangements to see 'what damages (if any)' have been caused during the soldiers' occupation of the Schoolrooms.  

This letter was actually the first item I spotted in the file as the Barnsley Battalion Coat of Arms, enlarged here on the left, was in bright red and raised up on the writing paper.  As you can see the letter above was folded and would have been read right hand side first and then turned over to read what we see on the left.  The easiest way to type a small sized letter maybe?  There was nothing on the other side.

It was quite thrilling for me to hold something that had been handled and signed over 100 years ago, last month in fact, by W E Raley whom I have read so much about.

The survey mentioned in the letter must have taken place, as the next relevant item was an account from the Church to Lieutenant Colonel Raley concerning the depreciation.
Letter dated 17 May 1915 (with thanks to Barnsley Archives)

Obvious from this letter and the accompanying account from a contractor for £20 17s 6d for cleaning and whitewashing the schoolrooms and toilets is the fact that putting up 250 men in an enclosed space for 44 days is going to end up in some damage and 'soiling' of the accommodation.  Lieut Colonel Raley obviously had more confidence in his men than was necessarily justified.  A price of £5 has been agreed to cover the damages which include 20 broken benches, damaged tables and trestles, and 'two large squares broken' (any ideas?).  What were the men doing to cause so much damage?  High spirits and fooling around probably, as might be expected when 250 young men are cooped up together!  

Unfortunately I also found a reply from Lieut Colonel Raley to the effect that the Trustees had misunderstood his previous letter and that depreciation was included in the payment of 3d per man per night.  Which I found a bit petty ... in today's money, according to The National Archives Currency Converter, £5 is around £215.  Not much to replace or mend those damaged items really.

Note dated 17 September 1915 (with thanks to Barnsley Archives)
Finally, in September 1915, there is a note that the payment had been received for the occupation of the School by D Company of the 2nd Battalion of the Barnsley Pals. It records that the 250 men were on the premises from 30 March to 13 May 1915, that is 44 nights at 3d per man per night, amounting to a reasonable £137 10s.  Again using the TNA's currency converter I see that that is equivalent to nearly £6,000 in today's money so I suppose the declined £5 for the damages was quite a small amount considering the overall sum the Church received.

Barnsley Chronicle 15 May 1915
(thanks to Barnsley Archives)

On Friday 14th May 1915 both Battalions of the Barnsley Pals boarded trains at Barnsley station to be taken onwards to Rugeley in Staffordshire for further training.  

Jon Cooksey (1996, p.83) notes that, "Barnsley was to see them together just once more before they left England for overseas service."  

Children were allowed the day off school and families lined the streets to say goodbye to their sons and brothers, husbands and fathers.  The entirety of the front page of the Barnsley Chronicle the following day was taken up with reports of the day, overflowing onto page 3 of the paper.  

If you want to read more about the moving scenes in Barnsley that day you can browse the Barnsley Chronicle at Barnsley Archives absolutely free of charge.  It is available digitally and on microfilm and copies of articles can be bought for a reasonable 55p an A4 page.  I find reading the old newspapers completely addictive and just as likely to produce wonderful stories as searching through boxes of old documents.

I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into the history of the Barnsley Pals as much as I did when I discovered it in the Archives yesterday.  

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Making Adjustments to Cope with Disabilities - Compromise and False Vanity

I looked back at my calendar a few days ago and realised that I have been more unwell than usual since the end of March.  The last time I can say I was well was when we visited my daughter and her partner in Leicester for a weekend and I managed a pub crawl and a bit of shopping and everything seemed OK.  But by the end of the following week I was seriously doubting that I could make a friend's wedding.
Part of the map on the Leicester Real Ale Trail leaflet (Leicester CAMRA)

What happened?  Well, I suppose the pub crawl might have been a bit much ... we travelled into Leicester city centre in the car, my daughter drove (she is soooo grown up now! A car and a job!) as she was happy to defer her drinking until later in the day.  In the first pub we found a Leicester CAMRA Ale Trail map on which the OH and I planned the rest of the afternoon's crawl.  In all the OH and GB, my daughter's fiancé visited about eight pubs, my daughter and I opted out of the middle section of the crawl to pop into WH Smith and Argos and a few other places.  We were in town for about five or six hours, but that did include lunch and and a later snack in Wetherspoons.  I don't think I walked very far as the pubs I missed out were the furthest flung ones, I usually had the OH or my daughter to lean on and I didn't drink more than a couple of pints as I had soft drinks in several pubs - all part of the modern compromise for me.

I don't remember being tired the following day, but I did fall asleep in the car as the OH was driving back to Barnsley, which is normal for me.

The during following week I had some upsetting news which probably affected me more than other people involved as I seem to take everything to heart much more these days.  I think the isolation of working from home doesn't help, as apart from having a moan via Facebook and on this blog it is difficult to share my problems.
Dancing - Black and White!
Then on the Saturday was my old friend BH's wedding.  I spent the morning in bed resting up as I really didn't want to miss this special event, another part of my planning to cope with expected exertions.  The photo above, from Facebook, shows the effect a couple of glasses of white wine had on me.  I am not the one in white!  Needless to say I was absolutely exhausted the following day.  I had a wonderful time, saw some old friends and wish BH and his bride all the best for the future. x

Usually it only takes a couple of days to recover from a bout of exercise like this, but looking at the calendar again I can see that the following weekend we visited my mum and I can remember being too tired to do anything.  We usually manage a bit of gardening or heavy cleaning for my mum, but that weekend I think the best I managed was some online faffing to do with my mum's bills and banking.
Logo from 2015 CAMRA members' weekend

The next great adventure was the CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) Members' Weekend and AGM in Nottingham.  As a friend of ours was standing for the National Executive we had even more reasons to attend than usual.  The OH and I used to attend the whole weekend, booking a hotel from the Friday afternoon through to Sunday, but in recent years we have either not attended or have just gone for one day.  When the Members' Weekend was held in Sheffield in 2011 the OH and I were on the organising committee along with members of the Sheffield and Rotherham branches, so you can see we are very dedicated CAMRA members, not just to the drinking of real ale but to the aims of the campaign too.  I have been a CAMRA member for over 20 years and the OH even longer.  However as part of my compromise with my disabilities I had to step down from my role at the Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) two years ago and I haven't managed to help out at a Barnsley Beer Festival for longer than an hour or so for the past few years. 

That day out in Nottingham was very long, the AGM part of the weekend starts at 9.30am on the Saturday so we had to get an early train from Barnsley.  We didn't stay late in Nottingham afterwards, leaving not long after the business finished, but even so it took hours to get home as a change of train in Sheffield was required that we hadn't needed to do on the way out.  Of course I stayed in bed the next day, but I can't have been too poorly as I still managed to make the Cudworth History Group and the Archives the following week.
Hock Cellar Visitors' Centre at Fullers Brewery (from Travels With Beer)
Then there was the GBBF Bar Managers' Meeting in the Hock Cellar at Fuller's Brewery in Chiswick, London.  It turned out to be the weekend of the London Marathon so getting a cheap hotel room in the area was impossible.  The OH and I ended up staying in Borehamwood for two nights, where the Travelodge plus parking and two all zones day tickets for London trains and buses on the Saturday still cost less than the cheapest room we could find in the city centre.  I had volunteered to take the minutes at this meeting, which used to be one of the jobs I did regularly as part of my GBBF commitment, as the regular minute taker was on holiday and as the OH had to be there anyway it meant I could travel with him.  Having the hotel meant that we could take our time over the journey and we didn't have to travel to and from London on one day, something I used to be able to do.  Fortunately as the minute taker I am allowed to claim travelling expenses which did cover one night's stay, the other night the OH and I added on ourselves to make the journey even easier for me.  Another compromise.  

The meeting was great, lots of old friends whom I hadn't seen for a long time.  I didn't have ANY beer as I was taking the minutes and I missed the buffet as I had to visit the ladies and by the time I got back the gannets had had the lot!  Fortunately the OH and I had planned for this and had the makings of some emergency sandwiches at hand.  I was quite upset at the time as the meeting had gone on for four hours and I was really, really tired. I knew I would be unable to promise to do that job ever again. Afterwards we walked along the river bank back to Hammersmith via a couple of pubs.  I wasn't even the slowest walker that afternoon as one of the other chaps in attendance was just recovering from a badly broken leg so he was keeping a nice steady pace, just right for me leaning on the OH or my friends.  Another friend even carried my laptop bag for me.  I will say this for my CAMRA friends, they do their best to look after me!  I wish I could do more, but I can't.  Sorry.
A generic image of a South Yorkshire
Concessionary Travel Pass

That trip must have been almost the final straw as I can see from my calendar that I didn't manage to make the Archives the following week, April 30th, and I haven't been since.  However that was the same week the whole thing about my bus pass blew up, as I blogged on here previously.  I know that upset me dreadfully and it carried on for weeks.  

I did eventually get a letter of support from my hospital consultant (my GP surgery had refused point blank to write one) and a proper printed letter from the Council saying that I am fully entitled to a pass, but as yet I haven't had the energy to get back to the bus station to hand these in to try to get a full pass in exchange for the short term one I was grudgingly granted by the man on the desk there.

Then we went to Wales ... see my previous post about being tired affecting our holiday. 
The side of the Trinity Church showing the stone course between the windows
We have been back from Wales for just over two weeks.  I haven't managed to visit the Archives or the Cudworth History Group, although I was able give a talk I was booked for at the Holy Trinity United Reformed Church on Farrar Street in Barnsley last Wednesday thanks to the chair of the group cleverly arranging a lift for me from door to door by a lady who lives near to me.  Well done and thank you so much for that, I would have hated to have let you down.  That had the exciting side benefit of me spotting a new war memorial on the stone course on the side of the church hall as my lift pulled away after the meeting.  

My problems for the past two weeks have been mainly tiredness, with abdominal pain caused by my Crohn's disease on several memorable days along with the usual frequent trips to the smallest room.  This means that I have been eating mainly 'white' food, bread, crackers, pasta, soup, chicken breast and low fat cream cheese. I have also been suffering increasing joint pain, depending on what I have done the day before.  So a day spent planting out some tomatoes and weeding a patch of garden, sitting down and shuffling along as I worked along the bed, resulted in painful shoulders and knees.  A couple of hours of walking around Barnsley leaning on the OH after a visit to our solicitors resulted in aching and swollen ankles and knees.  The same thing happened during our trip to Wales after our day out in Caernarfon. I can only imagine this is a side effect of the poor nutrition and general inactivity due to the tiredness.  
Sholley shopping trolley

Unfortunately even a trip to the Co-op about 150 yards from our house is now very difficult.  When the helpful lady from AgeUK came last week to assist me in filling out my PIP (Personal Independence Payment) claim form we worked out that on a bad day I can only get around the house leaning on things.  On a medium day I can get to the newsagent or library where the Cudworth History Meeting is held if I lean or sit on walls along the way, and on a good day I can get to the Co-op, again with leaning and resting several times.  For any longer walking activity, such as a walk around town or trip to ASDA, I need the OH to lean on or a supermarket shopping trolley.  The result of any kind of prolonged walking activity is one or more days in bed afterwards recovering.

This realisation has led to me ordering a domestic shopping trolley, see photo on the left.  I did manage to find one on ebay that was nearly new, saving quite a lot of money.  I will be able to lean on this when I go to the Co-op in future.  Friends on Facebook responded to my rather negative post, in which I suggested that I now knew I was beyond saving as I had had to resort to a trolley, by sensibly noting that I was being ecologically friendly by saving petrol by walking to the shop (not that I dare drive alone these days, too easily distracted I'm afraid), and that it was false vanity to worry about pushing a trolley.  They are so sensible ... I do really like the support I get from everyone on Facebook.  Thank you. x

Other typical adjustments that I have made include leaving the dishes to soak in warm sudsy water for half an hour before washing up so I only have to stand at the sink for 10 minutes.  Preparing vegetables for tea in short bursts, chopping an onion and pepper at lunch time, then peeling the carrots later.  This means I have everything ready for just putting in the pan at the right moment, in the best tv chef style!  Or on a medium day doing a baked thing, it was baked squash last week and I've done baked potatoes a few times recently.  When all else fails we have a chest freezer with ready meals, usually picked up when they are half price or reduced or from the local Fulton's discount freezer store.  I really enjoy cooking, but it's that false vanity thing again, sometimes I have to accept that I will be offering the OH a frozen Quorn cottage pie instead of a pan full of veg or a nice homemade lasagne.

Today's worry is that my wrists hurt so much I am having trouble typing.  This suggests a problem with the height of my overbed laptop table and the position of my laptop in relation to me ... I raised the height of my table when we got a new mattress a couple of weeks ago, but now I think I have 'settled' in and the table is too high.  I will do some adjustments and see if things improve.  

Gone are the days when a post like this took just an hour to put together, I think I have been at this one for about four hours and am only just reaching the end, another compromise, doing work like this in chunks so I don't get too tired and lots of proof reading to avoid silly careless mistakes.  Ah, well, thanks for reading.  Comments and suggestions about other ways to cope with this tiredness welcome.