A typical priest hole
The following is drawn from what I was told by my grandmothers, my three aunts and my mother at various times…
When I was born on the eighth of March 1948, my parents had a jet black Cocker Spaniel barely out of puppy-hood named Rex.
From what mum told me Rex decided I was his responsibility. I remember seeing a black and white photo taken on dad’s Box Brownie showing me in my pram with Rex laying on top of my legs. Whenever I was on the ground, unlike most babies I crawled backwards everywhere. Better to bump into things with your bottom swathed in nappies than to bump your head. Well that’s my explanation for the way I crawled – so there! 😉
But there were times when even Rex couldn’t keep his eyes on me all the time. Apparently one day I disappeared. Mum panicked and sent one of the farm workers to get dad. Between them they searched for my throughout the house. Finding no sign of me they then went out into the back garden. During summer, mum would put me in my pram in the shade of the Oak tree in the center of the lawn. This time however apparently I had crawled out into the back garden through the opened french windows in the living room. At the bottom of the garden was a very deep pond.
Yes, you guessed it. I had crawled backwards towards the pond. When mum, Rex and dad found me I was suspended by the heel of my left thumb on one barb of the barbed wire fence at the top of the pond’s steep bank. According to what I was told I wasn’t crying. Nor was I wriggling. If it hadn’t been for the barbed wire arresting me I wouldn’t be here today! I still have the tiny arrow-head shaped scar to this day.
The next time I went missing has to do with a very small priest hole entered from the top of the stairs. The priest hole was situated beneath the stairs themselves. To one side of the stairs was my slide. It was the wooden roof of the priest hole. From about three until I turned nine or ten I loved to slide down it. Anyway, back to how Rex found me. I think I was about four or five at the time, I can’t be certain as it was such a long time ago now. I had been playing with some of my Dinky toys on the landing at the top of the stairs. It was while running them across the landing that one of them hit the skirting board in a particular place.
Before me was a partial opening in the old house’s internal wall. You guessed it, I just had to explore. So in I went. Unfortunately for me the door shut behind me, leaving me in the dark somewhere behind and below the stairs. Once again Rex, mum and dad soon missed me. According to dad, Rex spent ages going up and down the stairs, in and out of my bedroom looking for me. Then he started sniffing at the hidden door, scratching at the skirting board until he managed to open it, much to my parent’s great surprise. According to mum, when dad squeezed himself inside he found me at the bottom fast asleep. Even the farm’s owner Mrs Mather knew nothing of the priest-hole when dad told her about it! Thank goodness for barbed wire and Rex’s nose!!!
PS – Rex and I went everywhere together on the farm for several years before he sadly died long before his time after contracting distemper. Every young child needs a four-legged best friend and protector like I had way back then…