(Son of W.D.F. Vincent)
William Henry Vincent [b. 1886 d. 1931]
The following is taken from a handwritten notebook by Bill, with added comments for clarification
Whether or not, this scribble will ever be read I do no know, I have been worried by one & another until in self defence I’m starting to spoil a really good exercise book.
My advent into this world was just about as late as it could be in 1886, the date being December 31 st. the fact that I was a boy baby was no doubt gratifying to my parents as they had lost the first son from what was called in those days croup.
I had a sister (Bessie) who was six years older than I and I’ve no doubt she mothered me in my baby days and assisted my mother & a young friend of my mother’s to thoroughly spoil me, anyway I got the reputation of being a very naughty baby and was only good when someone was nursing me – anyway that was not my fault. Well of those early days in my native town of Madenhead I have not even a hazy recollection.
Perhaps it would be just as well to explain how it happened I was born at this Berkshire town. My father lived at Yeovil; his father was a glove cutter and his mother died when he was a young man. He was apprenticed to a tailor and learned the art of cutting clothes, and in due course he met my mother who came from Chard, Somerset & she was one of a big family, her father kept the village Inn and was also a builder & decorator .
Well they got married I believe on a Xmas day (this is correct on December 25th 1879 at St Peter’s Church Paddington) and my sister made her advent 6 years before I was born. I think my parents were both about twenty one when they married & the eldest boy was born some two years after my sister and died a short while before I was born.
My father desirous of making headway, started in business as a tailor in Oxford, he soon realised that owing to credit which was expected that his shop was a losing proposition. My parents during this time at Oxford made the acquaintance of Mr. Hart & this friendship continued throughout my father’s life, they were both keen cyclists in the days of the penny-farthing & were I believe the first couple who cycled to London & back in the day on those big velocipedes, they each received a gold medal. They were also keen anglers & also spent much ‘time together & as they were both total abstainers they found much in common.
As my father saw his capital dwindling, he decided to become an employee again & having disposed of the Oxford business, he accepted the position as cutter to a Maidenhead tailor, while with him a competition for the best essay was announced in the leading tailoring journal of that time & my dad who always liked writing, entered for the competition and was adjudicated the winner. In due course he was asked to enter the teaching side of the Academy as a teacher, which he did & so we all came to London. My father, Mother, sister & myself.
I suppose I must have played with the other children and caught the childish complaints, I also had diphtheria & had a bad attack of pneumonia, but I remember little of that! but my memory carries me back to a corner house with a small front garden on to which one looked out from the drawing room, one side of the house was flush with the street and our kitchen window was a very favourite plaything of the children, one couldn’t expect anything else when it was their right for them to play with. On the corner is a pillar-box & a lamppost, the yard was fenced in by a wall & one side of it was entirely occupied by a glass house, there was a big gate which opened on to the road. Between our house and the house next door was a space halfway up the house, this was also covered in by glass, here we used to keep our bicycles, I can also remember two drums which my father bought as a nucleus for a band, but we never got any farther, but perhaps it was just as well for our neighbours.
The side road was favourite short cut for our police force to take their prisoners & it will be remembered that this was the good old days when men earn a pound a week – when they went to work at 6 a.m. and knocked off at 8 p.m. – when beer was two pence a pint & judging from the men I saw with our policemen it must have had some kick in, at least if it hadn’t the prisoners had.
Well as much for the outside of the Shepherds Bush House. Inside on the ground floor was a drawing room, a small dining room leading out to the lesser glass house, a kitchen & a scullery in, which was pantry, which I often used to find tasty bits. On the first floor was my parent’s bedroom, then my sister’s, the indoor lavatory, the
bathroom & a small study, which was for a long time my bedroom. Above this floor where two bedrooms. Well so much for the house, which my father purchased with the aid of a building society.
EARLY DAYS in SHEPHERDS BUSH
I expected to develop like any other baby and in due course I was sent to school which in those days was called a Board School but now known as L.C.C. schools. I had two bad bouts of illness, one of which was diphtheria & the other pneumonia, my early school days were uninteresting, fortunately for myself I did not get into trouble a lot,
but unfortunately for myself I was always a fat boy & of course my nickname was ‘Fatty’, I learnt a lot from those early school days, I got a real through grounding in elementary English & Arithmetic. Once when I was about twelve years a lad referred to me in somewhat unpleasant way & in anticipation I threatened to report him to the
schoolmaster & he followed me up behind & with a penknife in his hand made as to hit me on the back & I think intended turning the knife over, but somehow he wasn’t quick enough with the result that the blade ran down the back of my coat, spoiling a very good article of apparel, the result was a visit to the police station & accompanying an officer in plain clothes until the culprit was found & taken to the station & charged, with his subsequent appearance at the West London Police Court, where he was bound over & solemnly talked to by the magistrate. Well I don’t remember much about these school days. The school itself consisted of an infants girls & boys departments.
The typical red brick building & asphalt playing ground. It was complete carpentry school for girls (I think this should read boys) & a cookery school for girls. My big sister (Bessie) used to go to the girl’s school & so was able to give me an eye. Besides being stout, I was unfortunately the possessor of a squint in each eye, the aftermath of diphtheria and when I was about eleven or twelve I was taken to the Royal Westminster Ophthalmic Hospital & after due examination it was decided that I should have the squint corrected by means of an operation. I can well remember going up to the hospital- being very frightened of the nurses & sisters, feeling very sick with the many
strange odours & the sister instilling drops into my eyes, which drops I suppose was cocaine & them Mr. Henry Juler, operating on my eyes, I could vaguely see the students round me in the out-patient theatre & then the operation began, one eye was efficiently anaesthetised, but I suppose the other eye I had carefully squeezed all the drops out with the result – I felt a terrible ‘burning’ & often I can remember how I struggled & kicked & how it seems dozens of hands held me down & the surgeon saying, its all right now we are only washing the eye out with water, a process soon testing & quite as painful as the cutting, how very sick I was when I got outside, with both my eyes bandaged up & being led home by my father & put to bed. Never mind it was a wonderful success & only the experts can tell that I’ve got just a little squint in one eye.
Little did I think that I should be one of Mr. Julers clerks at another London Hospital or that I should take charge of his ward as an unqualified house surgeon.
During this time my father had gradually become very proficient with his pen & finally became Editor of the Tailoring Times (Tailor and Cutter Magazine), which was the leading technical paper of the day. He had also become a very ardent chapel worker; the Wesleyan sect being the one he favoured, he was a local preacher, the leader of the Band of Hope, the leader of the Mission Band and had a class meeting of his own. Whatever my father took up, he was an enthusiast & his meetings were always crowded.
During the winter the Band of Hope had many lantern evenings, my father buying his own lantern & working it with the oxyhydrogen method. I early became promoted to be operated of the lantern & used to go to many meetings with my father, in fact a typical Sunday was 7.30 a.m. prayer meeting, back to breakfast at 8.30, to Sunday school 10 a.m. Chapel at I I a.m. — Sunday School in the afternoon 2.30 p.m. to 4 p.m. perhaps an open air mission Band meeting at 5.30 p.m. Chapel at 6.30 p.m. & sometimes another open air meeting after chapel & home to supper & bed with the feeling that one had, had a real full day. On other Sundays I would accompany my father to preach at some distant chapel to which we would always walk, as he did not believe in encouraging Sunday work. During these years phonograph came into being & one was brought for the firm which my father could always borrow, how well do I remember those sound wax cylinders & how careful one had to be with them, one day someone over balanced the case & bang went about a £1 worth of records. What a nasal twang those Yankee announcers had, what a paraphernalia that was to carry about, a large case for the wax cylinders — the instrument itself — a big stand to support the very large horn. Well many a happy hour we had with those Edison Bell records for in those days such instruments were not found in every house. Sometimes we used to go by horse & trap, which a corn chandler used to drive us, ten miles or more out in the country. This man was a good hearted hard working man who had braks or horse charabancs & his corn shop and many a Saturday I spent in that shop measuring out pints of peas, or chicken food & what good fun I thought it, sometimes I’d go out with a horse and van & very occasionally I was allowed to drive the van a little way, some of his horses came from Canada, I thought myself a big man driving a Canadian horse.
Amongst other things this corn chandler could whistle in a hundred different ways – nowadays he would have made a splendid Variety turn, but then we were content to make an inferior phonograph record, which I’ve no doubt was passed off to make way for some other novelty.
What a great place Uxbridge Road was in those days, no tube, no motors, and just the good old horse buses on which my father used to travel up to Drury Lane. These buses used to start at Victoria Tavern, in the other direction two horse trams ran as far as Acton, just where the tram depot is now, there were brickfields just where the Pensions Offices is now (is this Bromyard Avenue, Acton Vale) & beyond that the open country where we could go up country lanes and walk through the Piggeries to Acton. The Piggeries are gone but Walls Sausage factory has been built very near the site of those old evil smelling farms, so we still have the shadows of our grunters, haunting the same old ground.
One of the events of those early years were the day trials given for Sunday School & Band of Hope, what wonderful days they were, perhaps a dozen brakes packed full of children with an adult here & possibly a man with a cornet on the front seat, Hampton Court, Kew & even farther a field did the children go in these days of motor charabancs – How we enjoyed those days in the country with our ham sandwiches & a wonderful tea to sit down to & then the journey home finishing up in the dark & going home very tired but very happy. What a wonder it was when we chartered several tram cars to Hampton Court, I think it was on this occasion that my sister fell in one of the ponds there & had a weak chest for some years to come. Another wonderful horse charter trip I remember well, was when I was allowed to go and see the illuminations at Queen Victoria’s jubilee, how marvellous they were & especially when one thinks all done by means of gas or by —– wax lights. So much for summer, but one must not forget Xmas & how a noble band of young people stayed up till the early hours of Xmas morning, walking round making the night ring with Xmas Carols – Once I carried a big Chinese lantern on the end of a bamboo pole; bu t I got tired before we finished & slipped back to bed.
They were wonderful days and I had many innocent love interludes, and many puzzles of life came in those days. How was it possible for a for a young lady to sing in the choir & then go drown herself because she was ‘graeivte’ (does he mean gravid – this is another word for pregnant) how could she be when she wasn’t married.
I think it must have been about this time that I accidentally saw the birth of a litter of kittens & which on retrospection, I have no doubt instilled in my young mind that I should like to be a Doctor.