Review of ‘Barm and Battleships’, by Margaret Wombwell

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 25th November 2006, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

by Margaret Wombwell
Published Locally (2006)

Last year (2005) a book entitled Ashover Remembered turned out to be a best seller. It came into being through an original idea by local resident Margaret Wombwell, who gathered many hours of recollections, and encouragement from the Local Studies Library, Derbyshire County Council.

Ashover Remembered sparked enthusiasm from others who wanted a sequel so that their memories of childhood in and around Ashover could be heard too - hence Barm and Battleships.

Some memories go back as far as the First World War: making jam at school for the troops, and Belgian refugee children who pulled the girls' plaits. From the Second War we read of the lad who would ask his mum to let him stay up and 'watch them bomb Sheffield'. A whole chapter is devoted to the wartime evacuation to Overton Hall of Derby Boys' Grammar School.

Olive, who sadly passed away before the book went into print, provided endless quotes peppered with humour and a rare vocabulary, as in this tribute to her father: 'A marvellous old man. Although he could hardly walk with beering at times ...'

Violet recalls young friends who lived in a basic hut but had the luxury of a well down the road. Most children had to fetch water as soon as they could hold a bucket. Young Lew, who lived in the hills, also had the job of emptying their toilet buckets into trenches - where celery would then be grown.

Between chores, children would go out after breakfast and be out all day, except on Sundays when there was 'no playing football. No knitting, no sewing, no nothing.' Ellen loved the long candle-lit evenings and 'People talking to each other, family talking, you couldn't see to do anything else, only talk.' Lucky the family whose dad bought a gramophone: 'And we thought we'd got all and everything when we'd got that'.

There were so many things still unheard of, greaseproof paper for example; butter was kept cool by wrapping it in a large dock leaf. Home cooking is high on the list of fond memories and this is where the barm of the title comes in, thanks to "Barmy Joe". The link between Ashover and a battleship is a different story.

A captivating miscellany of nostalgia.

Review by Julie Bunting

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