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A Shout From The Attic: Tommy Scott

"Life with Tommy Scott as a dad was difficult for me...According to the perceived wisdom of the time, I presented something of a challenge and it was not fashionable in those days to have challenging children...''

A step-father "appears'' in Ronnie Bray's young life. To read Ronnie's autobiogrqphy from the beginning click on A Shout From the Attic in the menu on this page.

After some years - maybe two, I’m not sure - mother met a divorced friend of nanny’s, who got Granddad a job as a mill-boring turner at Thomas Broadbent’s Central Ironworks at Queen Street South, where Thomas (Tommy) Scott was a centre-lathe turner.

In the nineteen-forties, workmen wore a uniform composed of a dirty rainmac streaked with the grease of years, a flat cap similarly laden with the marks of honest toil, a scarf in winter, and a haversack whose original colour had been concealed under a mixture of grease, the muck of common life, and neglect. This unpresupposing baggage contained the worker’s meal, and the ‘mashing', a piece of newspaper inside which was carried enough tea and sugar to make a pint pot or two of tea, the workers’ main fuel.

Tommy’s wife had taken an excursion to Blackpool and stayed the night in a hotel room with a man to whom she was not married. There was obviously some suspicion of previous misconduct because the night's lodging was observed and recorded by a private detective who later appeared in court and clinched the case against her. I never heard her referred to again.

He had twin boys, Tommy and Billy, both grown up, and he was many years older than my mother. He also had two daughters. Thelma married a Canadian soldier and departed into the Canadian agrarian wilderness to be little heard of, and Gladys who lived with her husband at the top of Wellington Street in Lindley. René and I visited her occasionally, but lost contact during our middle teen years.

On one visit, a young boy was present who was some sort of relative but I don’t know what. He recited a rather rude poem. Gladys said, “Oh, you’re worse than Ronnie!” Since I said very little as a lad through painful shyness, and had never said anything out of place or in poor taste, I was hurt by the remark, but bore the pain in silence, as was my wont.

A few years ago my mother spoke to Gladys, who, according to my Ma, said that she had no interest in the family. What can we make of that? Well, why should she? What had her family been to her? A family is more than an aggregation of relatives. It has to have soul and spirit and common purpose and some degree of interdependence. Ours had never had much of any of those things.

Tommy Scott and my mother got married at the Register Office in Ramsden Street. I always thought that Harry Manton, who worked as a painter and decorator for Lunn and Cardno’s decorating company of Upperhead Row, met Evelyn, whom later he married, at the wedding, but mother says that they knew each other a long time before the marriage. They had one son, Brian, who was born nine months before they married, and who was fostered for eleven months then taken into his family two months after his parents married.

Life with Tommy Scott as a dad was difficult for me. René was a good child, willing and compliant. According to the perceived wisdom of the time, I presented something of a challenge and it was not fashionable in those days to have challenging children. I was firmly put in my place - often. It would be explained to me by the womenfolk, who were the only authority in the house, “He has grown-up children of his own!” The logic of these wise words escaped my infant brain and becomes apparent only now that it is too late to do anything about it.

I slept in their bedroom on a cot alongside the wall near the door. I fell out of it once and hit my head on a tin-plate train. I don’t know when I outgrew their room, but I was transferred to the little attic bedroom while I was quite young.

Dad, as I called Tommy, in distinction from my Father, as George was called, died of cardio-vascular failure in 1956 while I was serving a full-time proselyting mission in Cheltenham. He had had heart trouble for some time, but I did not know that. We once walked up Brock Bank together to cut through to Harpe Inge on our way to the bus stop near St James’ Church, and he had to lean on the brick wall of the ginnel to catch his breath.

We had talked very little during our seventeen years together. We had little to talk about, for he did not really take to me, and I did not know how to approach him. About all I can remember him saying to me is telling me not to wait for him but to go on ahead when he had to stop to rest on the wall, and another time when he said my stock had risen in his estimation when I had made my mother a weekly allowance from my army pay. Apart from that, I remember only rebukes and silence.

He died slowly as the circulation failed in his legs. He had one amputated, but it was too late to make any real difference and he died three days after the operation. I was given leave from serving in Cheltenham to go and see him. I took turns with other members of the family to sit in his room, watch over him, and to keep him company as he died. He suffered beyond his patience, saying to me at one time, “I have asked God to take me, but he hasn’t done it.” He said this with an air of resignation.

He died shortly after I returned to Cheltenham where I served with Elder Billie Ray Anderson of Green River, Wyoming.


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