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Terrington 2020 Project - First Interview with Edwin Cooke

Date of interview: 2014
Interviewer: Alan Baddeley
Transcribed by: Susie Wildey

Listen to the recording:


The full transcript of the interview with Edwin follows, running to 20 or so printed pages. You can select below one of a number of topics if you would like to pick out discussion of that particular topic. Also below are lists of names and places which occur in the transcript so you can search for any you are interested in.


Click on a Topic to show all Q&As in that topic in blue, with the rest of the text grey. Then click on any blue Q&A to move to the next one in that topic. Click Restore document to restore the original document.


The following names occur one or more times. To find occurrences of one of them, press Ctrl+F (Windows)/Command+F (Mac), type the name you want into the Search box which appears, and click the Down arrow or Next button.

Anderson, Carr, Coates, Cooke, Ellerby, Estill, Foster, Goodrick, Goodwill, Hope, Lister, Southam, Steel, Wood


The following places occur one or more times. To find occurrences of one of them, press Ctrl+F (Windows)/Command+F (Mac), type the place name you want into the Search box which appears, and click Down arrow or Next button.

Castle Howard, Deep Dene Cottage, Groves, Hovingham, Little Terrington, Sheriff Hutton, Skewsby, Whenby, Wiganthorpe, York

Transcript of interview

Can you give your full name?

John Edwin Cooke

When were you born?

The 12th of the 3rd, ‘37.

What was your father and mother’s name and occupations?

Me father was William Goodwill Cooke and he was a builder cum stone mason and me mother was a school teacher, Alice Maude Cooke.

Where did you grow up here in Terrington?

Here, Little Terrington.

Which house?

Well one of them cottages, Deep Dene Cottage.

Can you describe it? Seems a bit funny to ask you to describe it when it’s out there but yes

Just a two up, two down, with a, it had a little back kitchen as well, toilet and everything was outside, ’coal house and there was a wash house outside as well.

Who lived there with you?

Just me and me mother and father.

So you didn’t have any brothers or sisters?

No, no, I was the only one.

What sort of things (food) did you eat? Was it different from now?

Well, possibly different, yes, yes, everything was on ration wasn’t it? So, well it was when I was small, so you got your little bit of butter so many ounce of meat, beef and things like that. But queued up half a day for a little tin of corned beef, used to think we had the world if we had a tin of corned beef didn’t we? So we did eat different, we ate locally as well, we had an allotment up on the field at the top of Little Terrington, just a bit of a corn field now, about a 4 acre field just over, that was allotments. We used to call it Canadas – where it got that name from I don’t know, but there was most people, not everybody, but most of them from Little Terrington had an allotment in it and also one or two people from Terrington had an allotment in it. Or a piece of land, some had quite a big piece of land, and you grew your own, we had a few fruit trees and things, and vegetables.

Did you keep chickens or anything like that?

No we didn’t, we had pigs in ’War. At the back there’s a square of land which is part of the field now but we had a wooden shed and me dad was building on his own in the 30s and he had scaffold poles up on the top and the bottom were in water and we made it into two piggeries and us and the people next door had 2 pigs each. We used to you know have to have a permit and get them killed, just kill them here, and then cut them up and put them down and you had ham and bacon and you did it all yourself.

So you weren’t short of meat?

We were never ever short of meat, we used to go and shoot a rabbit or two and anything else in season. We used to have crow pie as well, in season, May time end of May/June.

What’s that like?

Very nice, very white, very very white nice meat. You only eat the young ones you know and you only cut the breast out. We used to go down with our rifles and that when we were kids and shoot young ones out of the trees and they used to nest down here in ’wood and up in ’Groves at Wiganthorpe. Yes it was a very white meat, that was only just like once a year, your treat.

And what sort of clothes would you wear then? Any different from now?

Well yes, I were in short trousers. You didn’t get long trousers till you were a lot older in them days, I used to hate wearing short trousers

Your knees got chapped didn’t they?

Well yes, you were nearly a teenager before you went into long trousers in them days, you know. Jackets ‘n caps ‘n boots and nearly always boots.

But not clogs?

No not clogs, we used to wear boots, but we used to have to mend them always yourself, we always had a cobbler’s last and we used to mend them always yourself, you were always mending your shoes. You could buy leather to mend them and you could buy all the bits for the toe caps, and the heel caps and the nails and studs. We nearly did everything in them days, we just repaired them. In fact as well another old guise to repair shoes was when your bicycle tube had got perished or something we used to cut the tread off of the bottom and nail it on to ’bottom of your shoes.

Oh yes, I remember that, as well. Make them last a bit longer

So your clothes were different. They were always thicker cloth and heavier weren’t they in them days? You know if you had a big coat on it was always thick and heavy and stuff.

Did you buy new ones at any particular time of year? Or just when the old ones wore out?

I don’t know …. when you needed them I would imagine. Because they were on coupon as well, you could only buy so much new clothes because there was clothing coupons.

I just wondered because in Leeds it was Whitsuntide you got a new set of clothes, and you’d go around to the relatives and they’d give you sixpence for showing them your new clothes.

No I can’t remember, just when you needed them I think. Or you might get something for your birthday or Christmas like small clothes items.

What sort of games did you play?

Well, we played all sorts of games, but do you mean at school or on a night time?

Either, both.

Well at school we just, we had PE every day, sort of thing and we used to go and play a bit of tennis, kick about with a football and things like that and that was about it, a bit of cricket. We played cricket, we had a sports afternoon and played cricket, bit of tennis and then football.

So you had tennis courts then?

Well, there was one tennis court down the North Back Lane that we used to play on.

And did that belong to the school?

No, no, some land that did belong to Castle Howard, but that was the only court then. It’s not there now, there was just one court and they used to play. They were in the Hovingham league, which is still on the go, Hovingham Tennis League and they played out of there only one court. Everybody had to sit out, but when we were at school we did it in the day time you see, so you played in the day and cricket was down the field, down a farmer’s field, back of, well it was Estills’ field, you know Marnie Foster now, the fields they have down the back of their stackyard we played cricket down there. Well it was next field over from what the private school cricket field is.

So would the village have a cricket team?

The village had a cricket team, but the cricket field was up the South Back Lane, top of the South Back Lane, where Peter Barker lives and all them. That field on that side was the cricket field.

And would you go and watch them play?

Oh we always watched them play, yes, yes, when they were at home, even if they were away we used to go away with them.

And how would you travel away?

Well in a car, if people had cars or sometimes all the team went in a bus.

And you could go with them?

Yes, the Hopes’s bus used to, Hopes’s buses used to take the team maybe and you know, if it was …… depends where it was, especially if it was a Cup Match or a final or something like they always took them because they all went for drinks afterwards, either to celebrate or drown their sorrows, whichever the case may be.

And did you watch the tennis as well?

Yes, yes, when it was here.

You had a village tennis team?

Yes, they just played in the Hovingham league like, you know.

What about football?

No, they hadn’t a football team then, not then, they have now but they hadn’t then not when I was at school, no. They did have a lot of years ago but it had fallen through apparently.

So what sort of games did you play outside school?

Well, we used to play foxoff and realio.

Tell me more

Well that was just a – I mean in them days kids roamed everywhere, I mean it wasn’t like it is now, you know, there might be a couple of dozen of you or however many and split your teams up and half used to just clear off anywhere, over here, down them fields, down pastures, down ’street, down them fields and other team had to go and find them. Within supposedly a certain area and then you had to tig them, touch them, both games were more or less similar and we did that.

So how would that get organised?

Oh we just used to meet up and decide oh we’ll have a game of foxoff or realio and that was it.

And would girls play that?

Yes mixed all mixed. And later on in years I mean we just used to ride everywhere on bikes, you know. Well them as had bikes.

So did you have a bike?

I did later on, I didn’t no, for a lot of years I didn’t no.

So how old would you be when you got a bike?

I don’t really know, maybe 10 something like that, so when you were little you didn’t, no bikes much. Then we all used to congregate on mischief night like and do a few misdemeanours and things like that.

That’s the night before Bonfire Night?

Yes, that was it.

And would there be a bonfire?

Always, always a bonfire, yes.

And where would that be held?

Well usually over at the Cemetery Lane on the left in one of Goodwill’s fields, Robert Goodwill now, one of their fields, over the Cemetery Lane.

And what would you burn?

Well luckily when we got a bit older and the older ones that had been at school and had left most got jobs in the village. One lad worked at the joiner’s shop which was Billy Goodrick’s [CHECK Billy or Willy?] – John Goodrick’s father – and their workshop was next door to where shop is, you know just further down, that big dormer bungalow on the end, well in that square, well that was a workshop in them days, joiner’s shop. We used to get stuff from them, hedgerows that had been slashed, because they didn’t do them with machines you see, they were done by hand, and they used to have long branches and then the lads that had left school who were apprentices up at the garage, there was a wagon and car repair garage up the South Back Lane. There was at least two apprentices out of the village who’d gone to school here and we used to borrow their wagon and get a trailer and do all sorts and collect tyres from there, tyres from Hopes’s buses, waste oil, anything and chuck it on and we always had a big bonfire.

What about fireworks?

Yes, well when you could get them, but you all had your own, there was no special display. You know, there was no Health & Safety, you know and that rubbish nowt in them days. You just all had your own, if you got any. If you could get them, I mean early on there were none.

During the War they weren’t available were they? I remember after the War.

Well no, no not for a couple of years after, but we used to make our own.

How would you make your own?

Sulphur, saltpetre and charcoal. Make your own, it’s like black powder isn’t it, you make your own charcoal with wood and burn it, and cover it with soil and leave it for days. And then we used to, you could buy sulphur for defuming …. they used to, if people had lived in houses, poor people and they’d cleared out and there was lice and stuff in it, they used to burn sulphur to fume all house out. So sulphur was readily available and saltpetre, well you could get saltpetre couldn’t you, because you used it for curing your hams and stuff, so that’s why. We had to experiment a bit with different ways of putting it together, what quantity of each

Did you get a bang from it?

Well only if you rammed it into something, you had to ram it down into something, and you know ram it in to a cardboard tube or whatever. Even if there was any fireworks we used to, once they’d been spent we used to poke all burnt bit out and ram ours down it and at the end you either had a bit of something that run along or sometimes you used to get this paper and if you soaked it in water with salt in it and then dried it out and then wrapped it round and poked it in, it wouldn’t actually flame, but it just burnt back [CHECK black?] and red and red and red, because the salt wouldn’t let it fire until it got to gunpowder. You never got a big bang, but you got a bit, they were a bit dangerous really! But you got to know how to do all these things didn’t you, now they’d call you a terrorist wouldn’t they?

Did you play conkers?

Oh yes, we used to collect conkers, we played conkers at school and on a night, yeah.

And did you whip tops?

Not really no, not much. Hula hoops were a bit famous once over but not really whip tops much, a bit of hopscotch, that was later on, and lasses mainly played that, jumping on squares, and skipping

What sort of things did the family celebrate, what occasions?

Well they always sort of, well birthdays, you got present or something, but you never got a lot did you, because you know limited to what you could buy and things. You celebrated Christmas.

What would Christmas be like?

Oh you always had a Christmas dinner of some sort.

What would you normally eat?

Well you never had turkey because, don’t think I ever had turkey until I was older, we’d probably have a chicken or something like that. We were lucky here because top house, the man that lived Eddie Ellerby and Alice, that lived in the top house they had hens, ducks and geese all year, so all of Little Terrington never went short of eggs. Then there was a Christmas dinner there for Christmas but sometimes they were older hens you know, they weren’t necessarily chickens as they call them now. They used to, very rarely, but have broilers, what they called a broiler, but that was an old hen that had been laying, and what you used to have to do, you used to boil them first and then when they were boiled you’d put them in ’oven and roast them, with stuff on them, and that made them a bit tenderer.

Probably not so much flavour by then though?

Well there was, a stronger taste than what chicken you get now. Watery meat now isn’t it, in comparison. So luckily out of here, I mean out in ’country most people were better fed because farmers always had potatoes and you always get a few potatoes off local farmer, they all grew potatoes, and they all grew turnips for cattle and mangels and wurzels and stuff, the mangel wurzel and sugar beet and stuff. Well you got potatoes off them and turnips and you always had things like that, then you had stuff out of your garden, we used to keep carrots and beetroot and stuff in ’shed. We used to just have a pile of sand and we used to bury carrots and ’beetroot in sand and you’d just go and dig them out when you wanted them.

What about family, would you have other family come around at Christmas? Or did you have a lot of family around you?

Not really, no I hadn’t no. There was, I had an auntie and uncle at York and either they hadn’t a car or anything, so we had to go and bring them, but in ’early days we used to go and see them, and occasionally they came here.

And how would you get to York?

Car, me dad had a car.

What even when you were young?

Yes, yes he always had a car, well from my time he had. Well he was like building on his own in the 30s, he had a trailer for a little Morris 8 you know

And then he’d be able to get petrol for work purposes?

Yes, yes and he had permits you see. And then when ’War started they put them on, or even before, they put them on piece work and he was felling trees for a year or two. And that was basically before ’War started, the felling trees all over the place. I mean the bloke that worked for him Felix Carr, but he was also a painter and decorator, but he worked like labouring for me dad, building and they worked together and when they were in piece work and everything, they just used to work together.

Did your parents both grow up locally?

Me father was a Terrington man, yes,

And your Mum?

No, she came from Sheriff Hutton

A foreigner then!

Well yeah, and when she came to Terrington in the ……, I don’t know when it was exactly, but she came to Terrington to teach at the school. If you look through school records there’s some photographs with her on and stuff. But when she came and they were Southam you see, which was maiden name, there is some photographs of the school with her as Miss Maude Southam, Alice Maude that was her full name, but she got Maude and then another one later on it’s Mrs Cooke. Me father was born here, well in York in a nursing home or something but his mother died 2 or 3 weeks after he was born, she caught scarlet fever off somebody else in ’hospital and died, and he was brought up by a grandmother here. And as far as I know she couldn’t read or write because it said the mark of, I have some papers somewhere and it says the mark of ‘so and so’.

I have an auntie who couldn’t read or write, she was quite clever, but she’d never gone to school properly, she’d stayed at home.

Well yes, a lot of them did. She brought him up but I don’t know, his mother was Ann Elizabeth Cooke we called her, but she was a Goodwill, that’s why my father has William Goodwill Cooke. But the Goodwill she was related to was the farmers now Robert Goodwill, MP and that, but like his grandfather would be cousins to me father’s grandmother’s husband. You know what I mean, I would think me great grandfather was Goodwill, but I think he was a cobbler. I was looking through some records and I went to ’Borthwick Institute, well we think we’re right. His wife was a Lister, well if you go, it’s quite odd, because if you go in churchyard where her grave is, cos it’s on Elizabeth Cooke now, but she’s the daughter who was my grandmother, you see. She’s buried next to a big, there’s 2 or 3 graves of Listers, and there was 2 or 3 different families of Listers, like there is of Goodwills.

And what were your parents like, were they strict disciplinarians?

Me mother was, she was the old type of school teacher, didn’t behave yourself or you get a good hiding.

More so than your Dad?

Well yeah he wasn’t not so bad, no.

Left it to your mum.


So what was school like, were you taught by your Mum?

No, no, I did once go to same school as she taught in, but she was teaching the infants and I was in the other bit. When I was about ….. I went to Terrington school, you didn’t go till you were 5 and I went there and Lois Wood was teaching infant room and Gracie Coates who me mother taught with years earlier, they called her Anderson, Grace Anderson, then she married a man called Coates and we always knew her as Gracie Coates, but she was very strict.

And how many classes were there in Terrington School?

Well you had 2 rooms that’s all, you were all sectioned, you know. I mean Lois Wood taught from 5-7 and then you went into ’big room and there was 7’s and 8’s and 9’s and 10’s and right up to 15, you see there was no secondary modern or anything.

So how many kids would there be in each class do you reckon?

Well in the infant room roughly, there might have been 20, in the small room. I can always remember Lois Wood caning me

What had you done wrong?

I was cutting paper with me left hand with a pair of scissors, they used to change you.

You weren’t supposed to do things with your left hand?

No, girls they never changed but boys they changed, yes.

So are you left-handed now?

Some things I am, I struggle with me left hand when I’m cutting me nails and I always say "Lois Wood" – she was a nice woman and teacher and she was quite pleasant, but she used to wield a stick like everybody else did, but they used to try and change you when you were left-handed, so I ended up – I always write right-handed, I use some tools left, most tools left-handed, if I dig I’m left-handed. When I used to play snooker and things like that a bit at one time and I was left-handed. Shoot right-handed, football I was better on me left foot, cricket I was all right-handed. It’s funny isn’t it – tennis I was right-handed, cricket I was right-handed, football left foot, you know it’s amazing.

Did you like the teachers?

Well, yes I liked Lois although she did cane me, Alice used to biffer about that, I was always miffed I was I don’t know why. Anyway we went into ’big room but Gracie Coates was very, don’t know, she would soon brain you like with a stick, she was a bit, I don’t know she had a lot of kids you see, she might have had 30 odd.

And a range of ages?

Yes and she was trying to teach 7 or 8 of them one lesson, they’d probably all be on maths at once to do it right, but they were all at different stages. And then at one time, she was all right maybe, but she was a bit canified.

So what would you get the cane for?

Talking, not taking attention, all sorts of things, we did all sorts of daft things. Sometimes she would throw a book at you, she once threw a book at somebody. There was one lad in class who was often troublesome like, but this day he wasn’t being troublesome, and the lad in front of him was and she picked up her dictionary, well dictionaries were about that thick, and she threw it at this lad and he ducked out of ’way and it hit other lad at ’back, well it nearly knocked him out of ’desk, you know. Sort of stunned him for a minute, what matter and actually he was doing some work, which was a bit unusual! He was a bit of a trouble causer, but by she did land him, nearly knocked him out of the desk. I bet she regretted doing that, like. Then at one time we had a very short, earlier on in my life at school, we had Whenby school came to Terrington school for a short space of time when Whenby packed up there was maybe 15 or 20 kids came from there, Whenby and Skewsby.

And how would they get here?

They would come on a bus. The bus would have to go for them – Hopes’ bus again would bring them. But they only came for either one or two, two or three terms, and then they went to Sheriff Hutton after that. Forever then they were in that area, Terrington area stopped more or less at bottom of Terrington Bank, you know after bottom of bank further on well they went to Sheriff. But we had extra teachers then, we got a little one, a little woman, grey haired woman called Miss Steel, she was a bit keen. She was very keen and if she hit you, you knew you’d been hit. Others used to use like bits of cane, bamboo or anything like that, but she didn’t, she had proper cane! And they were about that length

What about a metre long?

Yes, yeah and they were thick as your middle finger. And you could get the stick and you could bend them double and they wouldn’t break, there was no chance you were going to smash it. And she stood up first morning ….

Tape ended.

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This page last updated: 21st December 2021

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