WW2 Evacuee in Threlkeld

John Hopper, who was evacuated to Threlkeld in 1939, has sent this lovely description of his happy memories of his time here during World War 2.

My early memories of being evacuated to Threlkeld are those of a six year-old, in September 1939, being bundled on to a train with my nine year old sister, Dorothy and eight other girls bound for Penrith.

I suppose I must have been completely bewildered as I sat there on the train looking out at a completely different world to the one I had known, with my gas mask case on my knees and my name label attached to one of my jacket buttons.

Obviously, at that age I had no conception of the meaning of war and even less idea of what was happening to me.

The journey from Penrith continued by bus and I can still vividly remember the bus driver pulling over to show us a field of rabbits which obviously left a lasting impression on me.

On arrival at Threlkeld the ten of us were herded into what must have been the village hall where we were lined up for inspection and eventual selection, a bit like a cattle market I suppose only less organised!

The nine girls, including my sister, were eventually matched up with their "new mothers" and ushered away to their new homes. Unfortunately, no one appeared to want a boy.

Eventually, after some discussion an elderly lady agreed to look after me until some place could be found for me.

As it turned out  I was to be looked after by this lady, a Mrs Marr, for the next three years and I was  probably the last evacuee to leave Threlkeld.

My new home was Cherry Cottage where I had a room in the eaves of the house with a floor-level window overlooking the main road. The "facilities" were at the top of the garden next to the small beck running through Kiln How.

Mrs Marr's husband was the village cobbler whose work shop was in an out-building adjacent to the Cherry Cottage and where I spent many winter evenings, next to the  galley-stove, listening to his friends putting the world to rights.

As far as I  can recall their son Ken was serving  away in the army and their two daughters, Gwen and I think Linda were both married with their own daughters Judy and Jenifer who were a couple of years younger than me.

I went to the local school which had, as far as I can remember, only a couple of classrooms each catering for mixed ages. The educational standard however,must have been quite good since I fitted back into the mainstream schooling without any trouble on my return to South Shields.

My main memories, on looking back on my period in Threlkeld, was the freedom to wander safely around the country side with everything being a big adventure. The mere fact that I quickly settled in to Threlkeld country life with no worries or fears clearly reflected the community attitude towards us evacuees and in particular, the love and care shown to me by Mrs Marr and her family.

On one occasion I went back to see Mrs Marr with my eldest son who was about six years old at the time. Although she was very frail by then and probably didn't know who I was she pointed a finger at my son and said "Why, Its little John Hopper" !

Incidentally, a year or so latter,there was a considerable influx of evacuees (probably 50 or so) from Newcastle but they didn't seem to settle as well as those from South Shields and within a few weeks most of them had disappeared.