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I Didn't Belong: Chapter Fourteen - A Visitor From The Past

"Whilst on one of my free days, I went to Seaton
Sluice, sat on the top of the cliff and watched the
waves coming in over the rocks. “What peace.” I sat
and had a good think about my future along with
how I ended up in the situation I was in.''

Ronnie Cook is transferred to the Wellesley Nautical School in Northumberland. Ronnie's account of battling through his turbulent, law-breaking early years to find peace, and a meaning to life, is a wonderful, inspirational story. His book I Didn't Belong is available from amazon.co.uk Type his name in the Amazon search box.

A short time, afterwards I was
transferred to Blyth, Northumberland, to a
place called Wellesley Nautical School. Someone
somewhere had made the right decision. See, there
is a God in heaven. Have you ever noticed that at
times of adversity God’s angels start to go to work
and try and turn things around?

This wasn’t a bad place as far as this type of
places goes. It was sort of easy-going but strict. If
you kept your head down and got stuck in, life was

The first thing I did was that, with it being a
port town, there were bound to be drugs about, so I
went and found some draw and other associated
drugs. Unfortunately I had to earn the money to
pay for it and it wasn’t always by legal means.

I was told on reception that if I behaved myself there
was a possibility that I could end up in the Royal
Navy or Merchant Navy if I wanted to when I left. I
don’t somehow think it would have been difficult to
fit in either, as the place was an institution run like
a nautical base. We had to wear Number 8’s for work
Number 1’s for special occasions and Sundays when we
went to the local church, St Cuthbert's in Blyth.

This was only possible because the local vicar had a
calling to work with people that are away from
home, such as sailors and ourselves in the approved
school. It was very seldom that we would meet
other members of the community, of course, with
the exception of a few Christians on a Sunday.
It is unfortunate, as it could have possibly
helped us to integrate with the locals and show
them we were not monsters or animals that needed
to be locked up away from the general public, but
in fact a group of young lads that had gone astray,
and all we needed was a pat on the back or a bit of
recognition as human beings as we were all in the
same situation. Our formative years had been
moulded by society from which all hoped to escape
to a life of normality, away from the original

The majority of the staff were more like
human beings and treated us accordingly, for which I
respected them. So I tended to keep myself to
myself, as I believed that if I was to mix with the
other lads I would probably end up in some kind of
trouble, as I still had this thing about all male
company. This was to be one of my problems as I
used to go out on what was called shore leave on
my own but only on the odd day.

I became very friendly with one or two of the
local girls, as it was a novelty for them to be seen
with someone different and not quite the white
man. In that respect I did quite well. Unbeknown to
me, people used to phone the unit and tell the
Captain, a Mr Swanson (a man very aware of
people’s cultures, wants and needs), that I had been
seen in different areas of Blyth and they thought I
was up to no good. Part of the time I was, but not
all of it.

Eventually, I was called into the Captain’s
office and asked what I was doing in these areas,
and not accused and punished without a second
thought. I was, however, given a lecture and
grounded once I had explained what it was I was
up to. This made very little difference, as I wasn’t
allowed home leave because I was classed as having no
fixed abode as I came from a Gypsy background
and could easily have disappeared. As if that would
stop me leaving, I stayed there because I was in a
stable situation and intended to get the most out of
it to help me with my future. Well that was the

Whilst I was there, we had to work and go to
class. Myself I didn’t go to class, as I was classed
has having left school. So I did a course in catering.
This was a City and Guilds course along with what
was a precursor of the CSE cookery course, which
I passed. Whilst doing this course I became friendly
with a lad called Nick, a lad from Newcastle,
someone to look up to. He was a good lad who
went on to join the army. The last I heard he had
become a Military Policeman, now that’s what I call
a turn around of life.

My thoughts at the time were, “I can do with a
touch of that.” After doing the catering course I did
a building course, another City and Guilds, which
again I passed. In fact we did quite a lot of things
that I thought interesting, for example, 100-mile
canoeing trails. We did the rivers Tay and Trent.
We weren’t allowed to do the Thames, as I think
they thought we would all keep going and head for
France or Belgium, which of course is what half of
us had planned to do as individuals.

In fact I had decided to keep going and join the Foreign
Legion. Well it was a better idea than our Frank’s. He
wanted to join a German group and be a terrorist bank
robber with Patty Hearst.

During my time doing the building course I had a couple
of visitors in the form of my dad and an old goat called Kath.
What a pathetic excuse for a woman! Have you ever seen
people’s impression of witches, like the ones
portrayed in films or books? Well, she looked a lot
like that, dressed like a tramp and trying to act like
a posh millionaire. What a prat, and she even had
the audacity to introduce herself as my mum. The
cheek of it!

Through letters from a girlfriend, June. At least she
was never unfaithful to me with
another man! Dad had found my whereabouts from
her and my brother Frank on one of his short
breaks from gaol. Obviously he told me where he
lived, and told me there was a room there for me if
I wanted it. He pulled out a role of money - probably
a roll of paper covered by a couple of £10 notes
and claimed he was earning thousands of pounds a
week in a scrap yard he owned in Gainsborough. So
I listened to his rubbish and remembered the
details that sounded like they could be true. As
usual it was a load of rubbish, but I listened
carefully as they would come in handy for the

Whilst on one of my free days, I went to Seaton
Sluice, sat on the top of the cliff and watched the
waves coming in over the rocks. “What peace.” I sat
and had a good think about my future along with
how I ended up in the situation I was in.
The conclusions I came to were to apply to join the
Merchant Navy and see the world. If I was lucky I
could find myself a nice girl to settle down with and
have a family of my own in some foreign place.

Unfortunately, I passed the exams, but the chap in
charge explained it would be difficult to get a ship
as I was from a gypsy background. Most
captains would be a bit dubious as we had a habit
of jumping ship and going walkabout, which I
could understand. But to me and the situation I
was in, it ended my great plan to escape to a
possible brighter future.


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