Betty Hart's story - Memories of Ormskirk

Growing up in Liverpool with the Spiritualists down the Wirral

By Betty Hart

Sea captainsĀ and fish and chip shops

There was my dad, my mum, two sisters and my brother. We had six fish and chip shops and lived in Ormskirk, Lancs. The baby of the family is 93 in June. My grandmother used to breed dogs. They lived in a house on four floors. There were dogs in cages everywhere. She had thousands of tiny little pups. My grandfather he was small, the size of a pillar box with a flat cap and a moustache. He was called Henry Taylor. He lost his marbles later on in life. He ended up in a mental home. It was probably to do with the Great War. My grandfather on my father's side, they were all sea captains, sailing clipper ships all over the world. He used to bring back monkeys and animals and keep them in the front room until he sold them. My grandma was Scottish though.

I had a horrible feeling which got worse and worse

My grandmother when she came down from Scotland, nobody could understand her, so they called her 'the foreigner'. Our family on the Scottish side were called McLeod. My grandmother and my mum fell out and never spoke for years. My mum didn't go to the funeral. My gran was a little lady. I used to go to hers, sit on a chair, and not say anything. I used to have to sit still for hours. It was so boring. I used to fidget when I needed the toilet. One day, I had to sit, back against the wall for hours. I had a horrible feeling which got worse and worse. My mum wouldn't let me leave and shouted at me when we got outside. We found out later, there was a man in the next room, on the other side of the wall, who was slitting his own throat whilst I was sitting there. They found him after we left.

Spiritualist meetings with my mum

Every night from when I was about 7 years old, I was taken all over the Wirral, Liverpool, and Southport to spiritualist meetings with my mum. She was very good at it. She had a friend who was a medium. She said to me once, "When I look at you, I see the man you'll marry surrounded by wheels". When I met Allan, age 15, it turned out that he ran a bike shop!

My father

My father was no good. He left home when I was 5. Every Saturday, he would get drunk, come back, row with me and my mum, smash the place up and leave. He was no good, never was. He used to work for Bird's Eye. He left for another woman and had more kids.

Gypsy Rose Lee

My mum told me when she was going to die. She predicted her own death. She once worked with Gypsy Rose Lee. My grandmother had the same gift of second sight, but it was also a burden. She also knew from when she was young when she would die too.

Meter under the coffin

When I was growing up, my mum would do anything for anyone. When people died, if no one wanted to lay them out, she would let them bring the body into our front room and lay them out there in the coffin. The gas meter was under the table with the coffin on it, and she used to say stick a shilling in the gas meter, so I would have to go in, under the coffin and put some money in the meter, banging my head on the way out. When someone was ill, she used to take their kids in. Sometimes I had to stay off school, and they would go to school in my uniform instead.

Pork chops every night for 2 years

(When I was naughty..) my mum used to just look at me, and that was it. She didn't need to say anything. Once, at dinner, my sister said, 'I don't like that, can I have a pork chop?'. My mum said, 'of course', and so my mum gave her pork chops every night for 2 years till my sister begged her to cook her something else. Neither of them would back down you see. My mother also said tables are for eating, not talking, and we couldn't talk till we had eaten everything.

Meat and potato pies

I used to love to eat cow heel, tripe and pig's trotters, and roast potatoes, roast potatoes and roast potatoes! We used to make our own meat and potato pies. My mum used to make the first crisps, as my sister said the scallops she made (chips fried in batter), were too big for her, so she made really thin ones. They were very popular. We used dripping then, not oil, then we switched to coconut oil. We used to go down the docks in Liverpool where all the ships were lined up. The men used to throw oranges at us. I used to get in trouble with my mum for being down the docks. I hated vegetables. We used to go to the herb shop and everything was in jars: sarsaparilla, Oxo, Bovril, ginger beer. I drank loads once in this shop, and then went outside to be sick. When I was little I was called Betty Oxo because I drank so much of it. It's not the same now as it was. It has a different taste.

Stuck to the wall bars

I remember always getting stuck on the wall bars in the school gym. The teacher used to have to get me down. I always cycled to school. I went to Parkhill Road School in Liverpool, then to Pringle Vale School. I went in 1931 when I was 5. The headmistress used to come round and test our spelling. We got a sweet if we got it right. The word was always 'purple' for some reason. I started work age 13 when the war started cos my mum wouldn't let me be evacuated alone. When I went out, my father used to say: 'Remember the day and date. I want you back here on the same date'. It's hard to believe things are so different now!

This page was added by Susan Morrison on 31/12/2007.

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.