In early 1959 I successfully applied for a post with the Torquay District of the South Western Electricity Board. This did not bring a higher salary but meant a move to Devon, a lovely part of England. We arranged to stay in self-contained accommodation in a large house, Hotel Walcot, which had been converted for short stays for holidaymakers. At first we had quite a spacious room, but as the holiday season approached and earlier bookings had to be fulfilled we were moved to a different room and were not so comfortable. Ruth was now three and a half and the manageress of the Walcot took a shine to her. One day Ruth told a visitor "Mr Foreman owns the hotel but Mrs Edwards and I run it".
The hotel was close to Meadfoot beach so as the weather improved we were able to go swimming there. At weekends we went further afield by bus, for example to Brixham and Totnes and Buckfast Abbey. We also went once to Buckfastleigh races which were run over fences and hurdles; this was only a minor racecourse and it did not survive for long after our trip there.
Soon after going to Torquay we arranged to buy a house that was then being built and we moved into it at about the middle of the year. Our furniture had been in storage so it was good to be back with our belongings. It was a semi-detached house, one of many built by a firm of two brothers who had built dozens of identical houses in the area called Chelston. We showed only a very small profit on the Sheffield house; the new one cost about £2,000.
Living in an attractive seaside town meant visitors, and in the fairly short time we spent there we had four lots, including my brother John and his family. At that time he and wife Vera had only two daughters. He had hired a car for his holiday and took us to Plymouth and one evening to Dartmoor. In Plymouth we swam at the lido on Plymouth Hoe where I had often been in my early Navy days. Nancy’s mother also spent quite a lot of time with us. Mothers-in-law are often the subject of jokes but I was always pleased to see mine. She helped in the house and Nancy and I could have the occasional evening out with mother doing the babysitting.
We also had one trip to Plymouth by train. On arrival there we took the Torpoint ferry to Cornwall and then the bus to the Royal Naval Artificers Training Establishment where I joined the Navy in 1941. The training establishment was still functioning and in fact still existed when we made our first trip home from New Zealand in 1983.
From the RNATE we took the short cut to the village of St John’s which meant crossing an arm of the Hamoaze estuary by stepping stones. We were lucky to be able to do this as it was not possible at high tide. It was a very nostalgic walk for me as it took me back to the time I used to go there to look at the wading birds, curlews, dunlin and others which I had never seen in the Brigg area. We then took the long walk to Millbrook where I had bought my first beer on Good Friday 1941. I cannot remember now if we had a drink at one of the pubs in the village before getting the ferry back to Devonport and then to Plymouth to catch the train home.
In the autumn term of 1960 Ruth started school at the Sherwell Valley Primary School which was only about 100 metres from home and soon afterwards we knew that we were to have another child. Mary was born at home in June 1961 and, unlike Ruth, made a very speedy entry into the world.
Later in 1961 itchy feet caused me to successfully apply for a job with the Southern Electricity Board at Newbury in Berkshire. It meant an increase in salary but, more importantly, required me to provide my own car for which an allowance was paid.
We hired a car and went to Newbury for a day to look for some temporary accommodation and settled on Yew Tree Farm in Highclere, a few miles south of Newbury. This was an old house but was no longer a farm house. Nearby was Highclere castle, home to the Earls of Carnarvon, which became well known many years later as Downton Abbey in the TV series of that name.
Once again the furniture went into store, and off we went to Newbury, staying at first for a few days in a boarding house. It took a few days to organise buying a car with the help of a loan from my employer. The car was a modest Morris 1000. Ruth went with me to collect it and thought we were to have a very posh car she saw in the showroom so was very disappointed.
Now we had transport we were able to move into Yew Tree Farm in late December. Ruth was enrolled at the village school. Fortunately a child with some kind of disability lived nearby, and the education authority provided a taxi service to take him to and from school. For a small contribution Ruth was allowed to travel in the taxi.
Our move coincided with some very cold weather. On the first weekend after moving we went to Winchester and visited the cathedral. It was bitterly cold in there so we did not stay long. On one occasion soon afterwards I went home from work for lunch and by the time I wanted to go back enough snow had fallen to make the long driveway from the road to the house impassable.
The people from whom we rented the house could be described as upper class and it soon became apparent that they shared the upper class tendency to treat debts in a cavalier fashion. When I rang the local coal merchant and told him where the coal was to be delivered he wanted to be assured he would be paid, as the owners of the house owed him money. The hot water system gave trouble; when I rang a plumber he told me that he had not been paid for previous work. Until the land agent who had organised our lease told him that he would guarantee payment, the plumber would not do the job. Quite late one evening came a loud knock on the door. I opened it to find a very burly intimidating man – he was a debt collector but we were able to convince him that we were not the culprits.
While at Yew Tree Farm we drove to Brigg and back in one day to see my Dad; we had not been to Brigg since before leaving Sheffield. It was a long day; there were no motorways then.