Dover Remembered

Holidays in Dover many years ago.

Holidays in Dover many years ago.

My father was born in Biggin Court, Dover. Whether that made him a “Man of Kent” or a “Kentish Man” I do not know, but as a child I had some terrific holidays there. My father left Dover when he was 13 and lived with a relative in London. He was the seventh child of his family, but the only one of them
I knew well was his older sister Elizabeth. She always ran or owned a pub in Dover. She was a widow when I first became aware of her but she had three children, all older than myself. My grandmother lived with her and I only saw her once. She was blind and they put my hand in hers and said: “This is Marjie” I kissed her cheek, then my parents
left me with her. I was about ten and I really didn’t know what to say, so I wandered round the room saying things like: “I like your aspidistra, and your photos on your mantelpiece look nice” forgetting that she couldn’t see them and I didn’t know how long she had been blind.

Luckily my parents came back and rescued me.
I never saw my grandmother again as she died soon afterwards.

My family had some very close friends and the man I always called ‘Uncle’ also came from Dover. When we went on holiday we always stayed with a sister of his. lie and his wife had two daughters who were like cousins to me. All Christmases and holidays were spent with them all. This relative of uncle’s lived at Buckland, on the road out from Dover to London. We used to go up an extremely steep hill to the top row of houses. Behind there was nothing but green hills. I used to spend ages walking over these hills (I think they were part of the Shakespeare Cliffs), as if I went far enough I would eventually come down to a beach, passing some brick buildings. I always imagined they were the dungeons of the Castle. They fascinated me. I would look through gratings in the ground and imagine prisoners in them. Now I think they were part of the underground passages of the Garrison there.

If we walked the other way in about four miles we would come to St Margaret’s Bay. The two daughters, Jessie and Dory, often had their boyfriends with them and they used to take me about with them, my favourite place being the Castle, I really loved it all, and out in the open we could see a mark where Bleriot’s plane landed.

My family liked a drink occasionally and because my aunt ran a pub,

I was always smuggled in, so didn’t have to wait outside like lots of children did in those days. They were given a lemonade and an arrowroot biscuit, but they used to look cold at night, standing outside.

We used to go to the beach a lot, whether it was cold or not, undressing under bath towels. If it was too cold I would only paddle, but the others would swim. They must have been hardy.

There were screams of laughter one day when an old man in another group bent down and his towel dropped. I can remember a few ribald jokes which I didn’t really understand.

Even now so many years later, I can still see Dover’s Main Street with its large houses, and the docks. It always looked bleak. I loved walking up the High Street from the beach. One day we all went to the Warren, Some of us went by bus my dad took uncle and aunt and my mum by car and my older brother rode his bicycle. On the way back we were walking up the hill to get top a bus stop when Dad passed us with my brother hanging on to the window of the car to save him pedalling. Suddenly he veered away and then went back straight into the glass window, liis arm was badly cut. The three got out of the car, and my dad wrapped my brother’s arm in a towel and rushed him off to the local hospital. When we went home he had to stay behind, and even as an old man he still bore the scars.

Luckily dad had a car to get him to the hospital quickly. In those days the glass wasn’t unbreakable as it is now.

We did take holidays elsewhere I can remember Margate’s ‘Dreamland’, Ramsgate’s ‘Merrie England’ and Southend’s ‘Kursaal’ but of them all it was plain old Dover, with its fabulous hills and castle, that I can still remember vividly and love,

Marj Busby, South Australia