Reg's Story

In early 2018, Natland News received a message from Reg James responding to the item on the Natland Website called George's Story- What life as a Waif and Stray in St Mark's Home was really like.

Reg told us:

I read with some interest, the story you printed about George Wenman's time spent in the care of St Mark's Home for Boys.

I should add that he had a very easy time from my reading of it although my time came after his, from 1950 - 1955, and my story would not make good reading for such a really nice village.

I did have some good times though.  

I sang in the choir as head boy and acted in a play in the church, I think it was "Innocence".  

Also I helped dig the hole to plant the tree on the green.   

A city boy out of Liverpool that learned to love the country.  


After receiving Reg's email, we asked if he would like to tell us more about life at St Mark's.  

Here is what he told us:

Early Life in Liverpool

What I can say for sure is that the time I did spend in Natland will remain forever as a major part of my life story.  A story I am compiling along with Ancestry for my sons and grandchildren.

Perhaps I will never know or appreciate how lucky I was, along with my older brother (18 months), how we survived the war living so close to the docks in Liverpool.  Moments impressed on my mind such as, upon the sound of the sirens, quickly being dressed in a siren suit then being carried at a run to the air-raid shelters, close to our front door in our street, during bombing raids.  The musty smell of the shelter and hessian bunk beds, being handed a mug of tea, in a mug as big as my face, and at one time we didn't have time to make it to the shelter so we hid under the stairs.  All great fun, or so I thought.  It was only when I became a little older did I begin to understand.  Houses and factory buildings no more than two hundred yards away bombed to rubble.

I remained in Liverpool then until I was nine spending my time playing in the bombed out buildings; so stupid I now of course know, but then what else did we have to do?  I must have missed more school time than I care to mention.  

I never really knew my father, I last saw him when I was two years old, before he went out on the North Africa campaign; I never ever saw him again.  

Our first time away, from home - the back streets, we were sent to Frome in Somerset where we remained for no more than 10 months, then up to Natland. Two young boys from Liverpool were not easily accepted amongst other boys or older people for that matter.  It took quite some time to adjust.  My brother looked after himself, as did I.

I started my life as an individual.  

Life at St Mark's Home

I remember well my time at the school in the village, the effort put in by the school head master who first put me on the road to learning and a great deal of that I certainly had to do.  I don't think I could have passed a 6 plus at eleven let alone 11 plus.  I have a great deal to thank that head master.

 In the Home I learnt a great deal of discipline, a number of occasions for the wrong reason mind, but who was I to argue, I was more too often than not in the wrong place at the wrong time.  

I was responsible for the boiler cleaning and lighting, I think I must have scrubbed every floor in the building ten times over.  Pealed thousands of potatoes and washed hundreds of the pots pans and dishes.

I looked after the chickens, cleaned out the run and coop on many occasions.  On one occasion I dug and weeded a whole field with a spade, or at least I thought it was as big as a field.  It was the house veg garden.  I knew then what blisters upon blister were.  What did I do to deserve that, I will never know. I was not to reason why.

A number of us were selected to carry out various responsibilities at flower shows and farm shows, they were the few good enjoyable times though.

Once a week we would walk down to the village shop in Sedgwick to use our sweet coupons.  Even that walk became very enjoyable and not just for the sweets.

I think it must have been 1952 when the whole choir went up to St John's in the Vale church to attend the opening of the youth centre.  I remember well that the service had to finish quickly due to one of the worst thunderstorms I had ever witnessed.   Myself and my wife have walked up that way on many occasion since.  

I attended church up to seven times in the week, choir practice plus all services and later became confirmed into the church.

As mentioned previously, I was asked take a major part in a church play, to a full congregation, a part thrust on me at very short notice.  

At the outset the part had been allocated to the school head master's son, can't recall a name, who had to drop out at the last minute due to a bad cold.  From brief memory I think I had no more than two or maybe three days to learn my part, which just had to be the major part of the whole play.  There had been a Nun recently appointed as an assistant in St Mark's home and she was given the task to ensure I knew all of the lines, including those lines of all others in the play.  I must add that the lady was a very good teacher and very strong on discipline, I don't believe I fluffed my part once.

It was after that, that I could not do a thing wrong in the village, when passing early mornings to collect the milk from the farm, the first farm on the road up to Oxenholme, the villagers opened their doors to me to say hello or offer me homemade cakes etc.  Another major change to my self and respect in village people.

I think that the village people, at the time must have thought my future would be in theatre so they gave me a walk-on part in a local village play, a serious murder play I think.  It was only a quick walk-on part though, no lines to learn.  I was given a coat and a trilby hat to wear then to walk on to check in my hat and coat to the artificial sound of heavy rain, lightning and thunder.  Unfortunately the hat I was given was far too big for my head and kept slipping down to much laughter from the audience.  That killed the seriousness of the play and briefly changed it to a comedy.  Perhaps I could have ventured more into theatre but for the problem of having too many privileges.  

I also recall the time when I assisted in the planting of the tree that is now on the village green.

I firmly believe that the 5 years I spent living in Natland gave me my love of the country and village life, born a city boy but always a farm boy.

Life After St Mark's Home

Eventually I had been issued with tickets to sail to Australia to work on a sheep farm.  I was all ready to go when at the last minute I backed out to live with my brother, who had left the home a number of years earlier.

I believe many a young person did take up that offer,  I know now that I am glad that I didn't

I eventually served my time as a marine engineer but could not find a job at sea in order to miss my call up to national service, so I eventually joined the Army.  I spent six years in various locations, mainly Germany, but after I married it wasn't the life for me so I left and went back into engineering and eventually finished work altogether when I was 74.

Our time's now spent, if not in the garden, visiting National Trust properties and locations.  We are also English Heritage members with our next run out to visit as many Historical and Archaeological sites through England Scotland with two weeks spent in Orkney Islands amongst the various Neolithic sites and digs.

Reg James, 2018

Natland Village Green

Post Office and General Store

The Church on the Green


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