My Early Years

I was born in 1929 on Tyneside; I had wonderful parents who despite the great depression gave me a good start in life. Education was badly affected by the war years and time spent in bomb shelters, but I made up by attending night school even in the black out.

At the age of fourteen and a half years I left school and started work. The war had just finished and the armed forces were being demobbed and returning to pick up there civilian life and jobs. Our town had been devastated by bombing with no street left untouched, not one shop window remained intact in the town centre. Huge gaps remained were homes and businesses once stood. The town needed rebuilding and repaired. Building workers were needed badly.

I started work as an apprentice joiner and served seven years learning my trade, building new houses on the bombed out areas and repairing the remainder. I learned the all round skills in not only the building side but the bench work setting out and making doors, windows, stair cases all by hand, very little machinery in those days.

Lunch breaks were taken in the joiners shop, I along with seven apprentices and joiners sat on our saw stools around the open fire at the end of the workshop. Our glue pot simmering away, along with our Billy cans for our tea.

It was during these lunch breaks an old man started coming into our workshop, he was about 90 years of age wearing a well worn but clean overcoat and a bowler hat. We were all surprised how intelligent he was. He told us of his experiences in the timber trade.

At the age of 14 his father took him to the gold fields in America, there, they panned for gold but could not strike it rich. They then started in the logging camps and that was when his stories really took off. He worked in these logging camps for about 25 years before returning to England to work in timber yards for the rest of his working life. It was these stories which made me have a life time study of these forest giants.

He told us how these giant trees grow, how they were cut down and how they were sawn up, all by hand, how they got these giant logs out of the forests to the timber yards. Most of the trees were the giant Sequoias and the giant Redwoods in California. The Sequoias is more massive in girth and the Redwoods are taller, both are pine trees. The sheer size of these trees is mind boggling and it must have been so hard on the loggers with hand saws to cut them down and rip them up into boards.

ln the next instalment I will try to explain how these giant trees grow so tall and how they have survived for thousands of years.

Most of these trees are now in National parks and are protected.