DOWN MEMORY LANE with Roy Townsend


My very first memory is coming home from the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford after having appendicitis with peritonitis. I remember riding in a car with a very long bonnet. I can't remember who was driving, but I have always thought it was Mr Harris.

Then there was the row of elm trees which ran from the allotment gate, opposite Patch Riding, down to the top of the new play area by the School, which at that time was the school garden. I loved playing under the elm trees and climbing them, much to the concern of a Great Aunty who lived at the end of Patch Riding. The house is now long gone. One rather amusing tale was that when the war started there were aeroplanes very high up and Aunty made us get under the trees in case they dropped bombs on us. So for just a while the elms were friendly, no longer a danger to us — as the old proverb says: "Elm Hateth Man and Waiteth"— because it drops branches without warning. Every November we used to have a bonfire which was supervised by Nurse Trinder, who lived in Patch Riding, next door to my Great Aunty and Uncle, and Nurse Trinder made very sure we did not get too close to the fire. Of course from 1939 there were no more bonfires, so I suppose the last fire was in 1938.

I was born in one of the Waterloo Cottages in the High Street, next door to the Miss Hutt’s, who always remembered my birthday. My parents later moved from High Street into an old thatched cottage, just below Patch Riding, with very wide walls and a big walk in larder. The apple tree in the garden is still there and grew some of the sweetest apples I ever tasted. Just over the garden wall was a long narrow field which went with Finstock House. Mr Trinder and Mr. Davidson used to have an allotment there, but the rest was kept for Mr and Mrs Fellows, who lived in Finstock House. I remember Sid Pratley ploughing this field and he would sing as he ploughed. He sang, "Oh, I wonder, yes I wonder, will the Angels way up yonder, will the Angels play their harps for me, 10,000 miles I've travelled and a million sights I’ve seen, and now I’m ready for the field". Mike Breakell is the only other person I have met who knows this song. After Sid had finished ploughing he would take me with him to stable the horses. He would put me up on Bonnie and if they turned the horses out on Finstock Heath, he would let me ride all the way up, but he always led the mare. But if Sid's brother Fred took the horses up to the Heath, he would let me ride without leading and I would think I was really grown up!


  1. Great to hear Roy's recollections of his early years. Nurse Trinder appears in the Finstock War Book.
    Can we have more!

  2. "Will the Angels Play Their Harps for Me" is traditional bluegrass, and Google throws up lots of recordings(click here to hear a brief extract) as well as the lyric (click here for the lyric). The words have changed slightly in crossing the Atlantic, or in Roy's memory!

  3. Lovely to hear the memories. I am a decendant of the Oliver Family who used to live in Waterloo Villas in the High Street. I was brought up in Combe but all my relatives were in Finstock. Does anyone out there know of a`Bert Oliver` who ran the village football team around the mid 1920`s. I know of Herbert Henry Oliver bn.1878 (my Grandfather) and also Albert Carey Oliver bn. 1899. Could either of these be the `Bert Oliver`?

    Irene Cooke daughter of William Oliver of Combe

  4. Very interested in the reference to Miss Hutt. My male forefathers originated in Finstock in the 18th Century, one was a stonemason name of Joseph Hutt. I have a pedigree chart of earlier connected Hutts, but know nothing about their lives,and would love to obtain further information. I am considering a visit to Finstock, and would appreciate it if anyone could tell me if the Church records are available for 18th Century Finstock or are they elsewhere? Thanks for any help.
    Norman Hutt

  5. Its nice to read the early memories of roy townsend about my father Sid Pratley, I also remember Boney and Beauty my dads horses and going with him ploughing. though i left the village when i was a young lad i have always yearned for a return.

    many thanks for your comments roy.
    jeff pratley

  6. Jason Hutt New Zealand,
    Hutt family in NZ came from finstock would you know the address in the cottage?

  7. The two Waterloo Cottages are now one house, but still called Waterloo Cottage. The address is: High Street, Finstock OX7 3DA

  8. I also know this song, I was bornI used to hear it from my late mother when I was a child. I was born and grew up in Dublin Ireland. I recall a few of the words slightly differently, "Oh I wonder yes I wonder, do the angels way up yonder, do the angels play their harps all day"... I was only about 3-4 years old and am now 83.

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