In 1955, my family of Mum and Dad and brother Nick uprooted from Sussex to move to Exeter where my parents bought a terraced house in Brunswick Street, St. Thomas. We had come so my father could finish his training as a carpenter, which was curtailed because of the war. My father's uncle, Bill Burge was a well-known character from Alphington, who had his own building firm and offered my Dad an opportunity to finish his training in carpentry.
I recall my grandparents, Bill and Mary Brady, who lived at 30 Barrack Road, Heavitree, saying that parts of St. Thomas were prone to flooding over the years, but these must have gone unheeded by my parents, as they went ahead and purchased 4 Brunswick Street.
In October, 1960, I was 15 years of age and found being a teenager was tremendous. Little crime, little traffic, little danger, people were so very happy with their lot, even though it wasn't much! Television was nearly new and so exciting, great westerns every night and the music scene . . . well, I don't think it has ever been bettered.
John Stocker School
Around that time my headmaster at John Stocker School, Mr. Gore, had managed to get me an apprenticeship as a printer at J. Banks in Northernhay Street, he said it was for my sporting achievement.
Friends I recall at John Stocker were: Bernard Bates, Johnny Austin, Tony Beaton, Tony Facey, John Broomfield, Humphrey Loram and Tommy Ward and the teachers then were: Mr. Griffiths, Mr. Handby, Mr. Tebbitt, Mr. Lightowler, Mr. Gill, Mr. Rowsell and the fearsome Mr. Jenkins.
Most of my time then was spent playing football in St. Thomas Park with mates, or going to the Flowerpot to fish or mess about, and relishing the Fairs that came to Haven Banks. Exeter at this time was rebuilding from the horrors of the blitz of the Second World War and building the inner by-pass.
The heavens open
It rained a lot in October 1960, in fact it rained and rained, then one day there was a frantic knock on our front door where an excited neighbour pointed to the corner of our street and we saw approaching water coming from Buller Road, via Okehampton Street. Thankfully my father arrived home from working in Ide five minutes later, which enabled me and my brother Nick to start to move all our carpets and possessions upstairs. This task we managed very quickly which meant that we had time to go and help others. I remember that our neighbours then were two spinster sisters who were grateful of the help we gave them to get things moved up stairs.
Eventually, the waters raised to nearly 1 metre in our house, with that and the accompanying sewage you can imagine the state of all the houses. What I do remember of this time was the friendliness of people, it was fantastic. A lasting memory I have is of my father, wading nearly chest high in water up Brunswick Street to get shopping for us and our neighbours.
When the waters subsided, came the clearing up and drying out. But once again disaster was to strike 5 weeks later around early December, torrential rain lead to serious flooding. Everybody was devastated after all the hard work of five weeks of trying to get their lives back together.
Panorama film at Flowerpot
After the waters subsided, I visited the Flowerpot with friends when I noticed somebody walking towards me who I recognised from the television – it was Richard Dimbleby, I cheekily asked him for his autograph, as neither of us had any paper he signed my library card. He said that Panorama was doing a programme on the flooding situation in St. Thomas and that they were about to film an interview with residents and discuss how the floods had affected their lives. So I waited around, and eventually people were assembled at the opening of the Flowerpot and the interviews began. I recall that I was standing right behind the Rev. Tozer who lived around the corner from us.
The Panorama programme was shown a few days later, where it was greeted with some hilarity by my family. Standing central behind the Rev Tozer who was of slight build, I seemed to tower over him and was right in centre of the screen. Being a typically excitable 15 year old, I acted ignorantly making hand gestures and faces to friends that were behind the camera and interviewer. The next day, I was sent to my Mr Gore, my headmaster, who told me how disappointed he was with my actions.
With the passing of years, memories of incidents can change. The one thing though that never fades is the horror of being flooded.
After these floods work started in 1964 on the flood prevention scheme of the River Exe. .
© 2007 Gary Brady
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