John Pye Auctions Weekly Story – ‘Grin and bear it’
At that time, mining strikes had begun, leaving little money in villages like Langley Mill, causing terrible hardship for families like his own.
Yet, with so much strife and poverty around him, John arrived in a world of luxury over the garden wall near his home. It was a time which nurtured his lifelong admiration for beautiful things.
Most evenings he would play after school with William for two hours in the large house and sprawling grounds, including two acres of roses and a farm with about 70 acres to roam around.
They rode a donkey called Mollie and even chanced rides on a petulant shire horse, even though this was officially forbidden and they had to dismount quickly whenever Sir William came galloping down.
Apart from a fascination with higher society and their luxuries, miner’s lad John was also being given other knowledge and skills.
He said: ‘During this time, they tried to teach me how to talk properly. At that time I was using ‘shudda’ and ‘canna’ ‘dista’ and ‘willa,’ all sorts of broad Derbyshire and eventually they tried to knock it out of me.
‘I still speak broad Derbyshire. I wouldn’t let them change my speaking, even though they tried very hard with all this ‘How now brown cow’ and all that. That wasn’t me and I never really changed.
‘But what a wonderful time it was. They had three maids in the house as well as a housekeeper and my mother there too to scrub the steps and the scullery. It was a delight for me to mix with society. I loved it.’
There were also occasional outings to other luxury estates. Sir William would call in and pick the pair up in his car taking them to some of the finest country houses in the area. There they would be given one of the favoured childhood drinks of the higher echelons, the Scottish soda, Irn Bru, which John still views as ‘the vilest thing I have ever drunk.’ His good manners taught him, however, that he had to drink it and simply ‘grin and bear it.
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