ONE of the things I love most about writing this column is that every now and again I’m contacted by someone with a lovely story to tell connected to our stretch of the Thames.
And just such a case has come from Dinah Ballantyne who now lives in Inverness but who grew up in Ashford and spent a lot of time down by the river at Laleham where her father was a keen fishermen.
Dinah wrote: “I’ve got this old photograph of my father and his Home Guard colleagues.
“The story that came down from childhood was that he spent the Second World War guarding Penton Hook Lock. I would dearly love to know more about his time in those days – and I wondered whether any of your readers might remember him and be able to tell me a bit more about him.
“My mother told me that she always knew when dad had arrived home in the morning after a night at the lock as he had trouble negotiating the trellis gate with his bicycle and invariably got his rifle entangled!
“I imagine his language would have frightened any invading army!”
I wondered why he might have had such trouble negotiating the gate until one of my colleagues pointed out that, of course, there was a blackout in operation at the time, which might have made things considerably more difficult.
Dinah tells me that her parents Phil and Alice (known as ‘Toddy’) lived in Dorset Road, Ashford from about 1938 until her dad died in 1981.
He was an engineer/tool maker by trade and like many men was caught up in a reserved occupation. Unfortunately, she can’t remember the name of the company he worked for.
Dinah adds: “In his younger years, he was a keen footballer and played for Norwood Green FC. Also motor cars featured largely in his life – probably something to do with the engineering gene?”
Finally, Dinah recalls her younger years. She wrote: “I have been thinking about old Father Thames and how it featured in our childhood. I recollect that dad (known as Mac) was a keen fisherman and my brother and myself spent many a boring afternoon sitting on the riverbank, mostly at the Laleham end, afraid to speak in case we ‘frightened the fish’! He was a member of either Laleham/Staines Angling Club in later years but I have not been able to trace any record of them on the internet.”
My good friend Peter Bailey from the Sunbury and Shepperton Historical Society tells me that the people given the task of guarding the locks and other assets on the Thames during WW2 were normally members of a unit called the Upper Thames Patrol (the second photo shows a group o UTP guys at Shepperton Lock) but is there anyone who remembers Phil ‘Mac’ McCarthy and who could help fill in some of the blanks for Dinah? Perhaps served in the same unit with him? Played football with him or worked alongside him?
If so, email me or give me a call on 07760 360016 and I’ll happily pass information onto Dinah.
I’M SORRY to report the demise of the Wraysbury Lake Sailing Club whose waters has been taken over by new owners who want to turn it into a fishing lake.
WLSC was formed way back in 1956 at a meeting in the News Chronicle offices in London attended by people interested in forming a sailing club with the News Chronicle Enterprise Dinghy as a class fleet.
Jack Holt, the designer of the popular Enterprise and Solo dinghies, was elected as the first Commodore.
The club was one of the most successful in the area and until the early 1990s, had the biggest Enterprise fleet of any club in England.
It’s always sad to see an historic club like this close down but its legacy is to have enthused several generations of people with the joy of sailing.