After a short AGM, when North and South Wheatley Local History Group business for the last twelve months and plans for the next were discussed and agreed upon, members welcomed their guest speaker for the morning.
Mike Hodgkins is a retired fireman and kept the group well entertained for over an hour. He was born in a Yorkshire mining village and as a boy he slept head to toe in one bed with his siblings. His hobbies included rock climbing, so he was always active, he listed several early jobs from a window dresser to the RAF. He lived for a time near a fire station and eventually enquired about being a part-time fire fighter to boost his wages from his job at Rowntree in York. He was persuaded to apply for a full-time role and after initial training, was posted to Bishops Stortford in Hertfordshire. There followed a long list of stories about incidents varying from Road Traffic Accidents, rescuing cows and a parrot, to major hotel fires and explosions. Despite the seriousness of some incidents including fatalities most of the stories were told with humour and kept the attention of the whole audience.
Steady progress through the ranks led to postings in Sheffield and Rotherham where the stories continued, he then went back to North London at Borehamwood where the local police used the fire brigade station facilities as a social club. He was not popular as a new station commander charged with improving morale and efficiency which included kicking out the constabulary. Mike had brought along some personal memorabilia including his long service medal to show us and added some fire safety advice. He retired and moved to Swaffham in Norfolk where he renovated a house before selling up and moving back nearer to ‘home’ territory in Chesterfield.
The next society meeting will be on Monday 21st May at the Village Hall in South Wheatley starting at 10.00am. The speaker will be Robert Mee who will talk about ‘Inn Signs and their Stories’. A friendly welcome and a cuppa is assured, so why not come along? First visits are free, you can then join or return as a paying guest. For more information please contact Dave on 01427 880934 or Alan Guest on 01427 884147.